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SIIM: Changing with Healthcare?

June 4, 2013
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This week I am off to the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) meeting in Texas.  SIIM was previously known as SCAR (Society for Computer Application in Radiology), and changed its name a few years ago, reflecting the fact that computer applications extend far beyond radiology in healthcare today.

SCAR was originally founded back in the early days of PACS (Picture Archive and Communications System) and RIS (Radiology Information System) developments by a number of luminary professionals in radiology.  Aside from the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America), it had become the premier radiology informatics meeting of the year.  The consortium that was responsible for what became DecRad (Digital Equipment Corporation bought marketing rights to the consortium’s RIS development) were some of the primary backers and promoters of the SCAR organization. 

SCAR initially flourished, as it was a primary source of information on the early PACS and RIS developments and clinical experience.  As the technology matured, there was less emphasis on learning opportunities as the market reached near saturation, and the fortunes of the SCAR organization began to fade.  Meeting attendance began to decline and vendors began to question the benefit of attendance.

To counter the decline, SCAR changed its name to SIIM, and reinvented itself to emphasize imaging informatics across all of healthcare.  While the intentions are good, the jury is still out in terms of its success!  The basic structure of the SIIM organization is probably still radiology-leaning, and it is a tough process to change not only the name but the composition of the organization.

A perusal of the current issue of SIIM publication Journal of Digital Imaging (, is a case in point, with the majority of articles still addressing radiology topics and the usual imaging modalities.  Where are the pathology topics?  The ophthalmology topics?  Etc.  It seems that despite the name change, the metamorphosis has yet to progress.  If imaging informatics is today bigger than radiology, shouldn’t there be more far-reaching topics?  The evolution affecting PACS and RIS technology is evident, in that topics such as the VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) are present, but it does not appear to have extended much beyond the VNA and mobile viewing technology.

I have not attended the SIIM meeting in a few years, so I am anxious to experience the annual meeting first hand to see for myself what changes have taken place.  If it continues to be a mini-RSNA emphasizing imaging informatics technology, it may be redundant to the RSNA.  On the other hand, if there are topics and exhibitors that are addressing a broader audience, then perhaps change is finally taking hold.

Post SIIM, I will provide an update to see just how far the change has progressed.  Stay tuned!