David S. Channin, M.D., CPHIMS, chief of Imaging Informatics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, testified before the Capitol Hill Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics in Washington, D.C., on the role of systems integration initiatives to improve patient safety. "All healthcare institutions face the challenge of sharing information between numerous heterogeneous computer systems both within their own facilities and between facilities,” said Dr. Channin. “Building a framework for implementing common standards to overcome these issues is what IHE is trying to accomplish. This will foster the appropriate, timely and secure communication of any medical information to support clinical, research and public health needs."

The Capitol Hill Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics is composed of policymakers, agency officials, and healthcare technology professionals interested in utilizing information technology to improve patient care. Honorary committee co-chairs are Senators Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Mike Crapo (R- ID) and Reps. Ernie Fletcher, M.D. (R-KY); and Rick Boucher (D-VA).

During his presentation, Dr. Channin testified on behalf of HIMSS about the role of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative in improving healthcare. IHE is a multiyear project that uses proven methodologies to create a broadly accepted, vendor-neutral framework based on existing standards to pass vital health information seamlessly from application to application, system to system and setting to setting within and across the entire healthcare enterprise.

Launched in November 1998, IHE now includes medical specialists and other care providers, administrators, standards development organizations, information technology (IT) professionals and vendors collaborating to improve the way systems in healthcare share critical information. Vendors and providers in Europe, Asia and North America have also implemented the technical framework.

“Dr. Channin captured in his testimony the key issues facing the healthcare industry related to the need for a common information framework for sharing healthcare information,” said Dave Roberts, HIMSS’ director of Public Policy. “With the HIMSS initiative for collaborative visionary systems integration, IHE is the right process at the right time that can serve as a key component of the National Health Information Infrastructure.”

IHE is working to establish a common framework, freely available to all (vendors, healthcare organizations, third party payers, clinical users, consultants, patients) on the Internet, to address critical integration needs. By extending the successes achieved by the proven process for defining such a guideline, the healthcare industry will realize the ability to appropriately share information that is currently available only within radiology.

HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) is the healthcare industry's membership organization exclusively focused on providing leadership for the optimal use of healthcare information technology and management systems for the betterment of human health. Visit http://www.himss.org.

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