Image transfer between software systems is a key diagnostic and treatment capability for dentists. Most X-ray and photo images are captured with one kind of software, then imported into a practice management software or into an electronic health record. The connection between the two systems that allows the clinical and practice management systems to include and correctly assign images is a software interface. When making referrals, or working with an external implant lab, an additional need for HIPAA-compliant image transfer emerges.
In addition, if one practice uses Dentrix, but a patient was in an office that used Eaglesoft before, being able to accept the image (and associated data) from a different system requires a software interface or image conversion. In medical imaging, an imaging center or PAC system sends reports and shortcuts to images to the EHR, and providers view images that are usually stored off-site. But in dentistry, images can be captured, stored, accessed and used within a single room, or may need to be sent to other dentists or implant laboratories. Software interfaces within an office and across offices and labs need to be considered during software selection and design.
As part of IHE Dental Domain committee, I am working on interoperability. Interoperability between vendor imaging systems will be tested at Connectathon 2014. Connectathon historically has been a key interoperability conference for healthcare software vendors, and in 2014 that will include dental vendors. Dental practices that start considering and anticipating the need for software interfaces will outperform those that do not ask the questions.
Michael Uretz is a thirty-year healthcare software and IT veteran. He has also been a key advocate for interoperability and will be at Connectathon 2014.