The German section of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) has published a paper advising hospital representatives on how to phrase bid invitations for health IT solutions. The goal is to spread the IHE profiles more rapidly.
Originally, IHE was an initiative that aimed to increase the interoperability of devices and software solutions in radiology. Today, many other disciplines have been tackled, including ophthalmology, cardiology, laboratory medicine, and pathology.
The organisation regularly runs Connectathons in which IT companies can show how well they have implemented the IHE profiles and get a certificate for their work.
“There are more than 50 integration profiles available now, but the problem is that often they are not known to the people who are responsible for bid invitations in hospitals," said Hans-Peter Bursig of the medical section of Association of the Electronics Industry (ZVEI).
To help overcome the problem, IHE Germany has published an overview of existing profiles in the medical journal Ärzteblatt, the German equivalent of the British Medical Journal in Great Britain.
The publication is remarkable because it is very unusual for an organisation like IHE to place an article in a journal like Ärzteblatt, which is normally dominated by medical doctors and national health policy experts.
It shows that the interoperability of health IT solutions is increasingly becoming a mainstream topic, even in a country – like Germany – that has never been particularly famous for following international standards in the field of health-IT.
“IHE integration profiles really facilitate bid invitations, because typical requirements are predefined from a customer point of view,” said Bursig when talking to E-Health Europe.
He said that it could be useful to refer to specific profiles in the bid invitation to avoid receiving information from companies that don’t fulfil the requirements. He suggested the approach could also help to relieve strain on IT departments in the run-up to a bid invitation, since many technical details would be part of the bid profiles.
In its paper, IHE calls on hospital managers and heads of IT departments to contact IT providers that regularly take part in Connectathons. “In the final contract, too, the IHE requirements can easily be integrated and made obligatory. There is also the possibility for penalty clauses,” the authors point out.
IHE admits there are certain limits to the IHE profiles and that these can cause difficulties with interoperability, even if IHE-supportive companies are contracted. It also admits that companies sometimes show prototype solutions at Connectathons.
“This means that a success in a Connectathon does not necessarily mean that the current product out in the market fulfils all requirements”, the IHE-authors say.