Telemedicine, telehealth, e-health, m-health – it’s all healthcare. But where would healthcare be today without informatics? Broadly, healthcare informatics deals with the resources, devices, and methods needed to optimize acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information in health and biomedicine. Imaging Informatics is the study and application of processes of information and communications technology for the acquisition, manipulation, analysis, and distribution of medical image data in particular. Most people think of imaging informatics as dealing only with radiology and maybe pathology, but if you think about telemedicine is all about images!
So where do you go to learn about imaging informatics? For me the best place is SIIM – the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (http://siim.org/) and this week was the annual meeting in Long Beach, CA. As imaging spreads across the healthcare enterprise, more and more IT departments and telemedicine programs are looking to radiology to help with their imaging needs.
So what was new and exciting at SIIM that applies to telemedicine – well just about everything but here are some highlights. One big question facing just about every specialty is how do we integrate all these images being acquired from all these sources (visible light, radiographs, pathology etc.)? Let’s face it – to date it’s pretty much been a hodge-podge of solutions that are unique to an institution or even a department. Getting access to the stored information at the Enterprise level is often a challenge. One new standard that may help solve that is HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources).
More details can be found at http://www.hl7.org/implement/standards/fhir/ but basically FHIR uses modular components called “Resources” that are assembled into working systems to solve integration and exchange problems at a significantly lower cost than existing alternatives. It is suitable for mobile phone apps, cloud communications, EHR-based data sharing, server communications and a host of other healthcare scenarios. We will be hearing much more about this as vendors are very much on board with adoption!
Workflow was probably the second most popular topic at the meeting with a strong focus on using analytics to better capture and understand what clinicians are doing, what information resources they are accessing, how they are accessing them, from where and using what types of devices. The role of Cloud services and issues associated with using the Cloud to store medical records and images was of high interest as more and more institutions are using the Cloud and vendors that provide services via or on the Cloud. Rest assured, there are lots of companies with some pretty sophisticated mechanisms in place to address privacy and security measures!
The American Telemedicine Association’s Annual Meeting follows directly from SIIM – but on the other side of the country in Baltimore, MD. It will be interesting to see how often informatics comes up there and in what context!