The Value of Interoperability: We’ve Come a Long Way

LorelleLapstraBy Lorelle Lapstra, VP, Healthcare Products, Calgary Scientific
Twitter: @calsci

I’ve worked in medical imaging for over 25 years and in that time I’ve seen the industry take amazing strides forward on the road to better patient care. When I compare today’s technology stack, the clinical breakthroughs, image quality and support for interoperability to where they were when I first began my career, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come. Industry players have matured from a proprietary, don’t share anything approach, to embracing standards and interoperability focused on improving patient care and cutting health care spending.

In those early days, PACS was a separate application from the RIS, and multi-planar reformat and 3D were separate add-on imaging applications or plug-ins. Fast forward a decade or two, and one can’t help draw parallels between how PACS used to interoperate with other radiology IT and the current state of EHRs, VNAs and enterprise-image viewer interoperability. Users are eager to sign into their EHR and be able to view, analyze and report on any content, including images, lab reports and other patient data, without having to leave their EHR but this level of integration is still in its infancy and often not available yet. With modern web technologies and growing mobile applications, we now have smart, secure web integration that supports the desired integration to quickly bring rich content together from any source and make clinicians’ desired workflow a reality in the near future.

Enterprise Imaging Platforms Need to Integrate
In my vision, an enterprise-image viewer needs to transition from a tool that can view content in all formats to a true interoperability platform. While most enterprise viewers can launch from the EHR, view most data, federate across repositories, view DICOM and non-DICOM files, support XDS and virtualization, they may not interoperate within and outside a hospital’s enterprise network. What if, for example, a customer already supports image exchange within their hospital’s enterprise network and now they require an enterprise viewer? They don’t want to switch out their image exchange offering, they want their enterprise viewing platform to seamlessly integrate with the image exchange network in which they have already invested.

With collaboration features now tightly integrated into the enterprise-image viewers it is possible for multiple caregivers to view the same medical data from any location on any device. Adding integrated audio and video communication further enhances this collaboration experience. If the enterprise-image viewing platform includes these types of built-in collaboration features, does it always make sense to move the data from one location to another and will we see more use cases where the data is left in place?

With the allure of the cloud, new DICOM web standards, FHIR, web technologies and mobile applications, I see more integration opportunities on the horizon pointing to whole new paradigm of what interoperability really means. Once again we have what innovators call blue sky and incredible opportunities. It’s a great time to be in the industry.

If you are considering an enterprise viewing strategy, make sure you have a partner that shares your strategic vision.

This article was originally published on Calgary Scientific and is republished here with permission.