EHealth Insider Live 2010 has heard an impassioned plea for standards-based interoperability in imaging, as the end of the Department of Health PACS contracts approaches in 2013.

A line-up of speakers from the NHS and suppliers called for a move to XDS-I, the internationally agreed standard that could enable PACS and RICS to interoperate both with each other and with wider clinical systems.

Neelan Dugar, chair of the UK PACS and Teleradiology Group and a consultant radiographer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Foundation Trust, said that PACS was unable to handle documents, leaving clinicians relying on PACS images and paper documents.

Any move to a true electronic patient record including images and their associated reports would require a standards-based approach that allowed sharing of data between PACS and RIS and other clinical systems.

Sarah Bruce interviews Neelam Dugar at EHI Live 2010


“We need to bring images and documents together. The next generation of PACS must incorporate XDS-I," she said.

The UK PACS and Teleradiology Group has co-located its annual meeting with EHI Live 2010 which is taking place today and tomorrow at the NEC in Birmingham.

A move to standards-based interoperability would have many other advantages, Dugar told the first session of the meeting.

It would enable trusts to separate data storage from PACS as well as allowing trusts to innovate in how they view images and integrate them. All of this is currently difficult and expensive as most PACS operate proprietor standards that lock the data down.

Market research from the US presented by Mike Dolan of ACUO indicated that 40% of healthcare organisations were keen to explore vendor neutral archiving, in which storage of data is separated from the PACS service in such a way that it can be shared with other applications.

This future-proofed storage, he said, and allowed IT to determine best of breed. It also enabled trusts to deal with migration issues separately from replacing their PACS.

John Crawford, head of IBM’s European healthcare business, underlined the global nature of the XDS-I standard which are now being mandated in Europe. In the US, companies are now being incentivised centrally for “getting their data out of silos and into clinical use”.

He said: “Interoperability is an imperative. We all understand that the way we are going to get cost effective healthcare in future is by connecting information together and making it available where it is needed.”

He added: “This is a journey. It will require co-operation of the standards body, interoperability, promoters such as IHE and industry itself. As users, you need to put pressure on your standards body. We cannot afford to have this fragmentation in the digital era.”