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ONC Announces Imaging Interoperability Challenge

May 18, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is launching a new Investing in Innovation (i2) Initiative developer contest aimed at improving interoperability among office-based ophthalmic imaging devices, measurement devices, and electronic health records (EHRs). The ONC’s i2 program is a way to promote the use of technology to find solutions that drive better outcomes, engage users in their health, and improve healthcare quality.

According to the ONC, documentation of the typical ophthalmology examination in an EHR is a challenge for providers, “creating barriers to full acceptance and use of EHRs within the medical community.”  The ONC says ophthalmologists use an array of measurement and imaging devices during exams that produce data and images in numerous forms. These are typically stored in databases and file formats with limited connectivity with EHR systems and ophthalmology-specific picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). The contest, called the “Ocular Imaging Challenge,” is a call to application developers that create better interoperability.

The ONC says along with ophthalmology, specialties such as cardiology, physiatry (physical medicine and rehabilitation), and otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) encounter the imaging issue as well. Thus, the agency says a successful solution can be expected to have an impact beyond ophthalmology. It also should be capable of converting the output of legacy devices from proprietary formats into vendor-neutral standard formats, archiving data from multiple devices, displaying and allowing the manipulation of images and data for clinicians, and integrating with existing EHRs.

Among the criterion for the contest is breadth of input devices and formats, the usability and interface for image viewing, and integration with existing office systems. 

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