Lawmakers need to address remaining interoperability challenges in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill passed in 2016, and support the broader adoption of the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine standard to improve image sharing capabilities across medical practices, the Academy argued at a congressional briefing Thursday.
Michael X. Repka, MD, the Academy’s medical director for governmental affairs, represented ophthalmology at the event, which was sponsored by Health Innovation Alliance, a health information technology advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Titled “Advancing Interoperability: Image Sharing & Remote Clinical Trials,” the session highlighted the need for standardized image formats. Standards exist, but current law does not currently require manufacturers and electronic health systems to adopt uniform image standards.
As a result, it can be harder for image-reliant specialists like ophthalmologists and radiologists to view all of a new patient’s medical records. It can also complicate getting a second opinion from a colleague. Images stored in the first doctor’s system might not be compatible with the new doctor’s system.
“For new patients, if we are unable to access their previous scans, it results in the need to run duplicative tests or suggest unnecessary procedures,” Dr. Repka said. “These challenges burden the patient, reduce quality of care, and increase costs to our health care system.”
The Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) is a standard for the communication of medical images and associated information, and it is used in hospitals worldwide. The Academy has been focused on driving greater adoption of of the standard to advance the needs and interests of physicians and their patients.
In 2022, the Academy participated in a joint workshop with the National Eye Institute, the Food & Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology focused on advancing ocular imaging standards such as DICOM.
The alliance invited the Academy to participate in the event, a sign of our leadership in the field. Congress has not taken significant action on interoperability since it passed the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016.
The Academy is focused on addressing remaining challenges with image sharing and believes this week’s briefing is a good step towards educating policymakers about the continued need for action.