Canada moves to make health data interoperable

Canada is the latest country to join a worldwide movement to make the flow of health-care information from multiple sources as seamless as possible. Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Canada is the local chapter of an organization that already has roots in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Partners

in the Canadian organization include Canada Health Infoway, the Canadian Association of Radiologists, the Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association, Ecole de Technologie Superieure, HIMSS Ontario, ITAC and the Ontario Hospital eHealth Council. The IHE initiative would ensure that information coming from many different sources, including computers, diagnostic machines, X-ray equipment and patient monitoring systems, would essentially speak the same language.

“”The objective ultimately is that as global interoperative standards are adopted among vendors and care organizations, (we) ensure continuity of care,”” said Sam Marafioti, CIO of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “”What that will do is allow for the seamless transfer of information or images, making that information comprehensive at any point of care so the clinicians are always working with the complete picture related to patient information and are not, therefore, dependent on systems that cannot connect.””

Radiology and imaging products are now virtually all designed to the digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) standard, and the Health Level 7 standard for data formatting is already largely universal, Marafioti said. However, the IHE standard for IT products would provide the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of IT interoperability.

Marafioti said he hopes vendors start to see the IHE seal as essential to their business as the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) seal of approval.

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