The successful exchange of information, both clinical and administrative, between different information systems is one of the major challenges for healthcare at present. Unfortunately there is at the present time a proliferation of heterogeneous and incompatible exchange solutions. As a result, linkage of systems by standard interfaces has now been broadly recognised as a must.
It was only with the introduction of telematics in healthcare that an urgent need was revealed for organised standardisation activities and for a common use of standards in healthcare informatics. Basic standards securing compatibility, connectivity and interchangeability were seen as especially desirable. In order to respond to this challenge, the Technical Board (BT) of the European Standardisation Committee (CEN) approved the establishment of a Technical Committee for Medical Informatics (TC251) in March 1990.
CEN/TC 251 establishes priorities based on healthcare market priorities. It also identifies both publicly available specifications and outputs from R&D programmes (e.g. AIM, Advanced Informatics in Medicine / Health Telematics, DG XIII-C4) which are suitable for rapid transformation into standards. When the market is not providing appropriate solutions, CEN/TC 251 generates suitable standards through consensus-building. The major objectives of CEN/TC 251 are reflected in the structure of its working groups and in its project teams' activities (see below).
CEN/TC 251 has so far been a successful technical committee. It has already produced a number of prestandards (ENVs) and CEN (technical) reports (CRs) and is on course to produce 23 new standard documents before the end of 1995. About 1500 experts from 25 different countries participate in these efforts. This is sometimes on a voluntary basis in delegations at the committee level, in working groups and in national mirror groups or may be at the request and with the funding of the Commission of the European Union as in the case of the 27 project teams.
The seven Working Groups (WGs) in CEN/TC 251 are :
A facilitating factor for international cooperation in Health Informatics Standardization is the recent establishment of a new Working Group in IMIA (International Medical Informatics Association).
The scope of standardization in Medical Informatics being as broad as Medical Informatics itself, this IMIA Working Group on Standards will have a horizontal range of coverage, comparable to the group on Education and Training in Medical Informatics, that has many links with other IMIA Working Groups.
Being basically both science driven and international, such an IMIA-WG will:
The establishment of IMIA WG 16 will serve as a signal to the implementors of standards, to demonstrate the willingness to cooperate at the highest level worldwide in order to obtain convergence in the standardization efforts. IMIA WG 16 could also serve as a catalyst for the possible creation of an ISO TC.
The activities of IMIA WG 16 will include:
Through the INTERNET WWW server of CEN/TC 251 which is located in Ghent (HTTP://MIGINFO.RUG.AC.BE:8001/), all documents produced since 1995 have been made available. This including agendas and minutes of TC-, WG- and PT-meetings, the CEN/TC 251-workprogramme, standards and other publications and databases.
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