Last week I wrote in anticipation of the 2013 Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting held June 6-9 in Grapevine, TX. At the time, I expressed concern that SIIM was having difficulty finding its way in moving from largely a radiology focus to a broader imaging informatics one. Following the meeting, there were some encouraging signs, but one can only conclude that the conundrum for SIIM continues!
First, the good news. Much of the discussion and presentations were focused on topics broader than radiology, particularly innovation, informatics management, data analytics, enterprise archiving and interoperability. This is a positive in terms of prior content that focused more specifically on radiology. That being said, the experience in these areas still comes largely from radiology-oriented attendees and presenters.
For example, I attended a discussion session on cloud based storage. The discussion wandered, covering such diverse areas as security and bandwidth limitations. Not once did I hear any dialog on managing or handling diverse sets of data beyond DICOM in the cloud.
In the case of the exhibit hall, similar changes were noted. There seemed to be less emphasis on radiology PACS and greater emphasis on peripheral areas such as analytics and archive/cloud applications. Some key vendors were conspicuous by their absence, choosing to attend the presentations and network versus being tied to an exhibit. Given that the exhibit hall was only sporadically busy, this may have been a wise decision! One vendor struck a compromise and had only a small exhibit with a single workstation, relying more on dialog than demonstrations. Again, perhaps a sign of things to come.
One interesting trend observed is the dichotomy between a Radiology Information System (RIS), and the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Several larger vendors have either discontinued altogether or are reevaluating their investment in a dedicated RIS. The rationale is that much of the order entry and scheduling functions are moving to the EMR, as well as the cost of certification under ARRA/MU. Additionally, the remaining analytic and reporting functionality can be ported to a PACS. Interestingly enough, there were other vendors that argue there is still a need for a RIS, particularly given that the key PACS market for new sales continues to be with smaller facilities, where there may be less emphasis on the EMR. One vendor went so far as to state concerns with the ability of an EMR to handle orders changes, such as changing from a two-view to a single view chest.
Now, the bad news. I saw few presentations and no exhibits from non-traditional imaging areas such as Ophthalmology or Pathology. If SIIM is to truly live up to its moniker, it is going to have to start to attract a broader base of attendees and address a broader array of topics in terms of enterprise imaging informatics! Surely there must be some facilities out there that are wrestling with imaging services beyond radiology and cardiology? I worked with one last year that was in the process of building a new ambulatory center and wanted it to be filmless and paperless!
Granted, changing the focus of SIIM is like turning the battleship – it takes a lot of space and time. But, I believe it would make for a stronger event and rejuvenate one of the fundamental reasons for holding an annual meeting – to educate and share experiences. What person involved in imaging informatics would not want to gain a broader perspective and learn about efforts in other imaging services? How about a presentation or two on the efforts to secure 510(k) approval for Pathology systems?
Perhaps I am being too harsh, and the industry has yet to progress to the point where there is sufficient demand for the broader perspective. For SIIM to survive though, I think the leadership needs to step back and reassess its role and take a more proactive step in this direction. A little experimentation might just be the means for determining the market demand for a broader perspective.
As always, I encourage your comments and suggestions.