A new product from Dicom Systems promises to ease interoperability efforts by enabling the use of an emerging standard to create interfaces to its own products as well as third-party systems.

Called FireBridge, the software integration product was created to aid in the implementation of HL7’s emerging standard, called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). Designed initially for image exchange across a variety of systems, developers say FireBridge also could enable other kinds of information exchange across systems by using FHIR.

The product holds promise for healthcare IT executives and their facilities by offering an approach to easily incorporate the use of FHIR in building interfaces to exchange information between systems. While FHIR is not complicated to use, hospitals and health systems will be looking for ways to incorporate it in practice and easily develop FHIR-ready interfaces.

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We’re a conservative company, and we invest our time and energy in things that have a future. When we saw what the FHIR standard was shaping up to be.

Campbell, Calif.-based Dicom Systems previewed the product in early December at the Radiological Society of North America annual conference, and it’s available now for existing Dicom Systems customers, said Florent Saint-Clair, executive vice president. At RSNA, FireBridge was being used in a lab environment, and now it’s available for existing customers to test in specific use cases. It will be more widely available beyond Dicom’s customer base later in the year. Pricing information was not available.

FireBridge translates to and from FHIR to other HL7 standards, DICOM or other simple standards; it can make any interface between systems FHIR-ready and DICOMweb enabled, allowing easy exchange of images.

DICOM Systems has specialized in imaging applications; it offers the DCMSYS Enterprise Imaging Unifier as a network appliance to facilitate the connection of information repositories, and that exchange can include studies, reports, orders or other patient data.

Exchange of images between different vendor systems is a significant challenge in healthcare organizations, Saint-Clair said. One use case for the new product will be to enable images to be accessed through different types of personal health records. While other standards have the ability to support interfaces, FHIR can do so more easily and quickly, he added. Because FHIR requires less manipulation, it enables “elegant” exchange of information.

“It’s not just focused on imaging, so the use of FHIR opens up the door to any kind of data exchange,” Saint-Clair added. “We’re seeing broader interest in this by healthcare organizations. FHIR ‘opens up’ applications, and any systems that don’t talk to each other would benefit from having a FHIR proxy.” In addition, FireBridge can be deployed as a FHIR proxy for information systems in various departments, including radiology, cardiology, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology and other subspecialties that could be connected to enterprise imaging.

FireBridge thus can serve as a proxy to make interfaces FHIR-compliant, “like a Rosetta Stone for devices and healthcare IT systems,” Saint-Clair said.

“The use of FHIR is very early on,” he added. “We’re a conservative company, and we invest our time and energy in things that have a future. When we saw what the FHIR standard was shaping up to be, frankly it’s still a little early in terms of industry readiness. It’s about to become really big. The early use cases will just show us the tip of the iceberg.”

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