Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) is an initiative undertaken by medical specialists and other healthcare providers, administrators, information technology professionals and industry to improve the way computer systems in healthcare share information. The goals of the initiative are described in its mission statement: "In our society medical knowledge grows exponentially. Fully utilizing these resources to improve patient care will require complete integration of information systems throughout the healthcare enterprise. These systems must be able to communicate relevant information to care providers upon demand. The goal of the IHE initiative is to stimulate integration of healthcare information resources. […] Using established standards and working with direction from medical and information technology professionals, industry leaders in healthcare information and imaging systems are cooperating under IHE to agree upon implementation profiles for the transactions used to communicate images and patient data within the enterprise."
Initiated in the United States by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) a couple of years ago, IHE has meanwhile developed into a multi-national initiative that addresses the specific needs of the healthcare systems in North America, many European countries as well as in Japan. The introduction of IHE in Europe is a particular challenge because the healthcare sector is organized on a national level and varies significantly from country to country, even among the European Union member states. In addition, the vendors for hospital information systems (HIS) and departmental information systems in Europe are often smaller companies with specialized products tailored towards a specific national healthcare market. Nevertheless, the IT integration problems that can be observed in healthcare institutions throughout the European continent are quite similar and call for similar solutions. It is clearly preferable to avoid local solutions to integration problems if an appropriate global approach can be identified or can be adapted with few modifications. These considerations, discussed between industry and healthcare professional societies since 1999, finally led to the establishment of the IHE Europe initiative in 2000. The European Coordination Committee of the Radiological and Electromedical Industries (COCIR) and the European Association of Radiology (EAR) have been granted financial support from the European Union to carry out the IHE activities in Europe.
The IHE initiative strongly depends on the IHE Technical Framework, a detailed, rigorously organized document that provides a comprehensive guide to implementing the defined integration capabilities. The Technical Framework delineates standards-based transactions among systems required to support specific workflow and integration capabilities. Transactions are exchanges of information between actors using messages based on established standards such as HL7 and DICOM. Each transaction is defined with reference to a specific standard and additional detailed information, including use cases. This is done to add greater specificity and ensure a higher level of interoperability between systems. The annual IHE Connect-a-thon (short for "connection testing marathon") provides vendors with a platform to test and verify the interoperability of their products based on the IHE Technical Framework. All participating systems are connected to a common network over which the various IHE transactions can be tested during a full week face-to-face meeting. Interoperability problems can be examined in depth and often even solved during the Connect-a-thon. The event is organized and monitored by a team of Technical Managers. In Europe, this team consists of the managers appointed by the national committees, under the lead of the European Technical Manager. In order to successfully complete the Connect-a-thon, each system has to perform a well-defined set of IHE transactions according to the profiles and actors the system claims to support. Successful participation of a system in the Connect-a-thon is also a prerequisite for a participation in one of the public IHE demonstrations.
OFFIS supports the IHE Europe initiative by providing the Technical Manager for the German section of the IHE initiave, which is sponsored by the German Radiological Society (Deutsche Röntgengesellschaft, DRG) and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers` Association (Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie, ZVEI). The Technical Manager supports the IHE participants in implementing the IHE technical specifications and preparing for the Connect-a-thon. He cooperates with the European Technical Manager and other national Technical Managers (France, Italy, UK) to test the multitude of IHE compliant systems at the European Connectathon and supports the preparation and performance of public national demonstrations like the IHE booth at the German Congress of Radiology (Deutscher Röntgenkongress) in 2002 and 2003.
Schütze, Bernd and Eichelberg, Marco and Wein, Berthold and Kauer, Thomas and Mildenberger, Peter; mdi Forum der Medizin-Dokumentation und Medizin-Informatik; 009 / 2008