IT professionals and ifa trust in open international standards

In the ideal world of information technology, all systems are compliant and can “talk” to each other just by “plug and play” features. The reality, however, is very different: more than 85% of all software applications and digital systems in eye care are designed for the simple “stand alone” use only and they are not following Health IT standards.

HIT standards have only a short history in eye care software. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) started the first initiative in 1995/1996 promoting the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine) standard because the first ophthalmologists had painful experiences as they were missing connectivity and data exchange features between ophthalmic equipment and software systems (Practice Management Systems/PMS and Electronic Medical Records/EMR).

Health IT standards today are more accepted and the leading vendors are supporting connectivity features built into their products. The most important standards for Health IT today:


DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine) provides standards for diagnostic systems with image and graphical output.


HL7 (Health Level 7) supports data exchange of administrative data between software based systems (demographic patient data, billing information, schedule management, etc.). Also, the clinical reporting and information exchange between physicians is covered by HL7  regulations. The most important reporting standard today is CDA (Clinical Document Architecture).


Ophthalmologists should only invest into technology which support HL7 and/or DICOM as that is the only protection for future investments.


IHE Eye Care (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise)

IHE is an initiative by healthcare professionals and industry to improve the way computer systems in healthcare share information. IHE promotes the coordinated use of established standards such as DICOM and HL7 to address specific clinical needs in support of improved patient care. Systems developed in accordance with IHE communicate with one another better, are easier to implement, and enable care providers to use information more effectively.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the “engine” behind IHE in eye care. The IHE committee organizes IHE presentations in conjunction with the AAO annual meeting. The IHE experts also publish checklists for health IT decisions.