IHE General Introduction

4 The IHE Approach

IHE profiles facilitate interoperability– “is a characteristic of a product or system, whose interfaces are completely understood, to work with other products or systems, present or future, in either implementation or access, without any restrictions.” (Wikipedia.com, 2021, “Interoperability”).

In HIT systems, interoperability typically involves the following aspects:

  • Content - a defined format for composing a unit of exchanged information supporting a specific function, often using standard nomenclature, a controlled vocabulary or terminology for representing semantic concepts.
  • Transport - standard messaging for communicating information (often composed of standard content) from one system to another
  • Workflow - a set of interactions among multiple users and systems to achieve a specific task or use case, often using standard messaging

Each IHE profile emphasizes and addresses these aspects of integration to a different degree. For example, the Radiology Scheduled Workflow Profile concentrates on workflow and messaging but also addresses limited content and nomenclature, while the Cardiology Imaging Report Content Profile is primarily about content and nomenclature.

Workflow is documented in IHE in the body of the profile, often in the form of a process flow diagram. Transport is documented in IHE in the form of transactions. Content is documented in the form of content modules, and sometimes directly in the body of transactions when the message payload is relatively fixed. Content may include nomenclature, which is documented in profiles, transactions, content modules, or the underlying standards as appropriate.