Re-Engineering Healthcare by Connecting Patient Data

January 8, 2016 by Eliot Sloane, PhD, FHIMSS

The US has been working on enabling health information system interoperability to improve patient care and safety since President George W. Bush's 2004 Executive Order. In a real sense, President Bush’s Order mandated the implementation of eHealth solutions in much the same way that eCommerce re-invented the banking, finance, retail, travel, and many other industries during the information age explosion during the prior decade.

IHE USA and IHE International have worked in partnership the US federal and state programs since 2004 to bring President Bush's vision to life, and the urgency of IHE's work grew even faster with President Obama's ARRA/HITECH funding and mandates in 2009.

Inspired by these mandates, the US has made huge investments and progress enabling health information interoperability to improve patient care, but there is a lot of progress and innovation still required to complete the task.

What makes IHE key to enabling health information technology?

IHE does not develop new standards. Instead…
IHE enables volunteer collaboration to fill high-priority gaps in healthcare interoperability standards, through the identification and development of testable technical specifications called IHE Profiles.
IHE Profiles are based on existing and emerging technical standards including DICOM, HL7, and IEEE and are published with open source licensing so that adopters do can avoid reinventing the wheel whenever possible.

IHE Profiles help the US government, providers and other users, and vendors to focus on critical health outcome improvements instead of the underlying technologies.

Elliot Sloane, PhD, FHIMSS, co-chair, IHE International; board member, IHE USA.


Every new physician practice and hospital that implements electronic medical records quickly discovers they have begun a process of eHealth re-engineering that will ultimately allow them to participate more fully in US healthcare.

Several brief examples:

  1. ePrescribing has made tremendous strides in the past decade, and it is now common practice for many doctors to send prescriptions electronically to retail pharmacies. This saves time and money, and prevents mistakes that have cost too many lives in the past. Moving to the next level, ePrescriptions of controlled substances like narcotics are simple in concept, but much more complex in technical and regulatory requirements. IHE USA can help vendors bring testable solutions to the market.
  2. There is the old saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words," and that is true in healthcare, too. Once a doctor can see the x-ray of your fractured bone or pneumonia, fulfilling that doctor's appetite to see an MRI of your tumor and surrounding tissue suddenly becomes feasible, and, on the surface, seems quite reasonable. The integration and testing of such tools across hundreds of vendors’ products to overcome technical obstacles and simultaneously meet emerging ONC Interoperability Certification requirements is accelerated each year by vendor testing at the IHE North American Connectathon.
  3. As US health information exchange extends from the physician office to hospital enterprises, government agencies, patients’ homes and across international boundaries to save lives, the IHE North American Connectathon provides a consistent, repeatable testing process that improves the reliable and accurate exchange of patient data to allow patients and doctors access critical health data in order to make informed care decisions.

When you think of critical health outcomes improvements for US healthcare,

  • What next steps would you make to improve healthcare information interoperability?
  • How would you re-engineer eHealth so that physicians and hospital providers can participate more fully in the reinvention of US healthcare?

Learn more about The IHE North American Connectathon Week, on Jan. 25-29, 2016 at the Cleveland Convention Center and HIMSS Innovation Center for five days of industry collaboration, testing and education to advance interoperability in North America.

Elliot Sloane, PhD, FHIMSS, is president, executive director and founder, Center for Healthcare Information Research and Policy. Sloane is co-chair, IHE International; board member, IHE USA; and opening speaker at the HIMSS Interoperability Workshop on Jan. 28, 2016 during IHE North American Connectathon Week from Jan. 25-29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Cleveland Convention Center, the Global Center for Health Innovation and HIMSS Innovation Center. Sloane opens the workshop and delivers “Interoperability and Integration Overview,” from 8:15-9:15 a.m. EST.








Posted Under: Interoperability & Standards, Health Information Exchange