DICOM Keeps Healthcare Secure and Smart

DICOM Keeps Healthcare Secure and Smart

This piece was originally published in the July 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Jeroen Medema, Standardization Officer, Philips

Charles E. Kahn, Jr., MD, MS, FACR, Professor and Vice Chairman, Department of Radiology University of Pennsylvania

Mr. Medema co-chairs the DICOM Standards Committee as well as the DICOM Education, Communication, and Outreach and DICOM Conformance working groups

Dr. Kahn, a past co-chair of the DICOM Standards Committee, currently serves as co-chair of the DICOM Education, Communication, and Outreach Working Group.

Not so long ago, health information consisted of paper folders and huge film archives.

In most cases, these records were not easily accessible and often were located in hospital basements. Patient information was available in each department, but even there, multiple folders could exist.

Even with the advent of digital healthcare imaging, those systems continued; information was not shared across departments. Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM, a NEMA standard also known as PS3) served as the means to gather and access images and related information across acquisition devices, imaging workstations, and image storage systems, but information remained in silos within hospital departments. Thus, there would be a DICOM system for the radiology department but also one for cardiology, and the two were probably not connected, let alone the same.

Changing Times

Healthcare is becoming smarter.

More hospital DICOM ecosystems have been deployed, and all imaging data can be handled in one. Cross-enterprise information sharing is growing, and all of this sharing serves the patient. As more relevant and actionable data are available, physicians can better support their patients.

Beginning in the early 2000s, a web interface for retrieving imaging studies was defined, and from 2010 onwards, DICOMweb has become the pinnacle of DICOM continuous extensions, which are meeting the demands of the clinical world.

DICOMweb is a term applied to the family of RESTful[1] DICOM services for sending, retrieving, and querying medical images and related information. The intent is to provide a lightweight, mobile mechanism for accessing images. It can be implemented by developers who have minimal familiarity with DICOM and use consumer application-friendly mechanisms to the maximum extent possible.

As healthcare professionals and patients increasingly work with mobile devices and web browsers, DICOMweb services meet their needs to access information securely. Smart healthcare organizations share data in the interest of patients. With DICOMweb, medical imaging data can be exchanged rapidly and securely.

As smart cities connect with other smart cities, the exchange of health data is not limited to city borders, either.

Smart cities require smart hospitals. DICOM is up to the task.

[1] Representational state transfer (REST or RESTful) resources provide interoperability between computers.


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