IHE Europe is a non-profit association dedicated to interoperability in health information technology. How this organization does cooperates with IHE countries in this part of the world? What is the importance of this cooperation? IHE Netherlands talks to Peter Mildenberger, User Co-Chair of IHE Europe.
Peter Mildenberger educated at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany). He is a radiologist and since 2006 a Professor at the University of Medicine in Mainz and responsible for IT in the Radiology Department. He is also member of the DRG (Deutsche Röntgengeschellschaft, ESR (European Society of Radiology) and RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) and chairs since 2011 the ESR subcommittee on “Management in Radiology”. In May 2013, he was elected for the post of User Co-Chair of IHE Europe.
Peter Mildenberger first came into contact with IHE through a meeting with Professor Guy Frija (Paris), former secretary general of the SFR (Société Française de Radiologie) in France. He told Mildenberger about IHE which resulted in the creation of IHE Germany in 2002. About the importance of IHE Mildenberger says: “It’s simple. Regarding IT-systems for hospitals or private practices there are often problems with interoperability of different systems; inside the institutions and also between institutions. It’s impossible to have interfaces for so many different systems. In this context IHE is very important. IHE defines how existing standards should be used through IHE profiles. Profiles those are understandable for both vendors and users. IHE has a more appropriate approach. So I dare to say that interoperability of IT systems has improved since the creation of IHE. Ten years ago it took weeks before we achieved implementation. Today it’s a lot easier. Many countries are now working on eHealth concepts, including IHE. A few countries are leading in this process, for example the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland.”
Role IHE Europe
The role of IHE Europe is to help national and European stakeholders and policy makers in adopting, promoting and implementing IHE specifications. The organization also organizes the IHE Europe Connectathon and supports the development of test tools using the Gazelle platform. “From political aspect IHE Europe is involved in many European projects regarding interoperability”, Peter Mildenberger continues. “An example is epSOS, which focuses on exchanging medical data between European countries for citizens while abroad in a secure environment. Another project is called HITCH (red: Healthcare Interoperability Testing and Conformance Harmonisation project). The project is about developing a vision of how interoperability and conformance testing of eHealth systems should be organized in Europe and beyond.”
So both technically and politically IHE Europe plays an important role as super-board for IHE Europe countries. IHE Europe coordinates developments coming from national committees as well as requirements needed for marketing activities. Mildenberger: “Depending on how active a country is, IHE Europe has several links with national initiatives. IHE Netherlands for example – I already mentioned it – is a leading IHE country. The IHE Netherlands has a lot of members and is very active in the field of education and marketing.” Why is one country more successful than another country, according to you? Peter Mildenberger answers: “It’s all about knowledge of IHE. Knowledge and success of a certain country that we as IHE Europe communicate to new IHE countries, like Finland. In this way, it’s important to have one voice for all European countries.”
Although IHE is doing well on European level, according to Mildenberger, in some countries it’s hard for IHE to be recognized as a pragmatic and efficient way to implement IT. “Europe has a lot of different organizations with an old fashioned approach of developing standards. In those countries it’s hard to get IHE implemented by companies. Other countries are still concerned about the IHE technique. How does IHE work? Sometimes it’s difficult to get IHE on the national agenda. We also have to deal with various laws in various countries. And don’t forget, IHE is not an organization like ISO. We are not an official institution with a big staff and a lot of money. We are relying on contributions by different companies. In conclusion I can say that IHE Europe tries to help all countries as well as possible. But we don’t have one answer for all of them.”
Lastly Peter Mildenberger says: “I would like to take this opportunity to wish IHE Netherlands a successful future!” Well, that’s very friendly of the User Co-Chair of IHE Europe. One thing has become clear, IHE Netherlands is on the right track.