IHE and the EHR
IHE profiles accelerate the conversion of healthcare systems to digital exchange.
Access to medical records is essential for assuring optimal patient care. Yet the development of interoperable electronic health records has been slow, in comparison to the digitization of other service industries. Barriers include the incompatibility of existing hospital and general practitioners systems for sharing records, concerns for security, patients' rights to confidentiality and legal issues, as well as aligning the investment required with those who will benefit.
The overwhelming benefit of EHRs is now apparent and the conversion of healthcare systems to shared registries and archives is rapidly gaining momentum. The integration profiles developed by IHE since 1999 are now helping to accelerate the adoption of the information standards needed to support EHRs.
The annual Connectathon organised by IHE-Europe has seen a steady shift in emphasis from testing of IHE Integration Profiles for radiology to testing profiles for cross-enterprise document sharing that is at the heart of electronic record exchanges. At the 2011 Connectathon in Pisa, Italy, 81 systems will be tested for interoperability against IT infrastructure profiles while 79 systems will be tested for traditional radiology profiles.
Meanwhile the European Patients Smart Open Services (epSOS) project supported by the European Commission is driving the cross-border exchange of medical data and stimulating a more rapid development of networks within countries. In the United States a nationally coordinated effort is encouraging the adoption of shared patient records.
Integration profiles developed through IHE collaborative method create a common framework for basic interoperability being applied by local, regional and national initiatives worldwide.
* IHE integration profiles created for Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS) supports well-established, international standards for the encoding of medical messaging, reports and images.
* IHE integration profiles define a security framework for protecting the confidentiality, authenticity and integrity of patient care data.
* IHE integration profiles for cross-domain patient identification management ensures consistent patient information and effective searches for EHRs.
An IHE compliant architecture enhances the quality of patient care by enabling the secure sharing of medical records among healthcare professionals. The resulting benefits include:
Greater safety through the reduction of medical errors
Greater savings through lower implementation costs and more efficient workflow
Greater satisfaction through better informed medical decisions and faster results for both patient and physician
As technology creates new opportunities, or as new requirements emerge for EHRs, the open, collaborative methods employed by IHE will continue to provide a robust response to these challenges and assure new developments find a practical application in healthcare.