3 Important IHE Terminology
IHE has developed a standard vocabulary across domains. These terms are usually abstract terms used to describe systems and interoperability. It is crucial to understand these terms prior to reading a Technical Framework document.
3.1 Profiles, Actors, Transactions, and Content Modules
IHE’s interoperability solutions are documented in implementation guides, called IHE Profiles.
IHE Profiles are implementable specifications describing how to use established standards to meet specific healthcare needs. Referencing profiles offers a common language that healthcare professionals and vendors can use to discuss the needs of healthcare providers and the integration capabilities of Health Information Technology (HIT) systems in precise terms backed by detailed specifications.
IHE Profiles define the behavior of IHE Actors, which are information systems or components of information systems that produce, manage, or act on health information. Actors exchange information through standards-based transactions. Examples of actors include Order Filler, Order Placer, Content Creator or Image Manager. Examples of transactions include Query Modality Worklist, Retrieve Images, Register DocumentSet, or Communicate Infusion Order. See Appendix A for a information on accessing a complete list of all IHE actors and definitions. See Appendix B for information on accessing a complete list of all IHE Transactions.
IHE Actors rely upon a consistent understanding of the data they are exchanging. Some IHE Profiles focus heavily upon the data definitions. Complex or large data sets are defined in IHE Content Modules. IHE Content Module descriptions for final text profiles are contained within a domain’s Technical Framework Volumes (typically Volume 3). Content Module descriptions for trial implementation profiles are contained within a specific Technical Framework Supplement or in the PCC domain’s CDA Content Modules Supplement.
The aforementioned documents, as well as the IHE Glossary, are available here.
3.2 Technical Frameworks, Connectathons, and Integration Statements
IHE publishes each new profile as a supplement using a well-defined process of public review and trial implementation. Once profiles have undergone sufficient testing and deployment in real-world care settings and have reached final text (approved) status, they are published in specification documents called the IHE Technical Frameworks. There is one Technical Framework per IHE domain, with each framework comprised of multiple volumes. These documents are made freely available for the healthcare community worldwide. The Technical Frameworks provide a unique resource for developers and users of HIT systems: a set of proven, standards-based solutions to address common interoperability issues. For more detail about the IHE publication process and the documents it produces, see Section 8.
Current versions of all IHE Technical Framework documents and Trial Implementation Supplements are available at http://www.ihe.net/Technical_Frameworks. Documents currently published for public comment are available at http://www.ihe.net/Public_Comment.
As a service to vendors and providers, Connectathon inter-vendor testing events are sponsored and managed by IHE. Test cases and expected results are written and monitored by independent IHE representatives. Vendors bring products and test their compliance with profile requirements determined by the actors and options they have chosen to implement. There are several Connectathons held annually in different regions around the world. More information about Connectathons is available here.
Another benefit of IHE for healthcare providers is a simplified “language” to request the inclusion of interoperability features in products. Purchasers can require conformance with appropriate IHE profiles/actor/content module combinations in requests for proposals (RFPs). Vendors who have successfully implemented IHE profiles in their products can publish conformance statements, called IHE Integration Statements, in the IHE Product Registry at http://www.ihe.net/IHE_Product_Registry to document their capabilities in a consistent format. However, it should be noted that IHE is not a certifying body.