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Group developing process to exchange digital dental images securely, privately

May 21, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

A working group of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics has partnered with Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, an association of health care professionals and industry whose goal is to accelerate the adoption of digital health care information systems through improvements in functionality, usability and interoperability.

The mission of the working group IHE Dental Domain is to team with IHE to develop dental standards-based implementation profiles detailing performance requirements for real-world practice settings. These IHE profiles are designed to provide information to assist ADA members in purchasing digital dental information systems.

Its first project, which started in February, will demonstrate the secure exchange and interoperability of digital dental images.

“We are responding to ADA members who have told us, 'I can’t exchange my dental images with the specialist down the street because we have different software and computer systems,’” said Dr. Kirt Simmons, IHE Dental Domain co-chair. “This partnership is working on solutions that will help dentists to select interoperable systems allowing for the secure and private exchange of images while maintaining HIPAA compliance.”

“By creating specific standards, we supply the vendor community with a roadmap to develop an integration path with no ambiguities,” said Pam Reece, IHE Dental Domain co-chair. “We help them produce an interface that is replicable with other vendors. From the oral health provider standpoint, the ability to exchange this information securely via email is a big step in the direction of simplifying the exchange of information between providers.”

The dental domain is developing IHE profiles and related technical documentation. IHE profiles contain data integration and information sharing priorities for clinical and operational domains, which are specific areas of health care undergoing digital systems integration.

Dentistry has joined a growing list of domains, including cardiology, eye care, patient care devices, radiation oncology, anatomic pathology and several others, in preparing for the legally mandated transition from paper records to electronic health records.

IHE, a nonprofit, works with the health care industry to promote coordinated use of standards, including Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine and Health Level 7.

The ADA is committed to fostering the interoperability of dental data and devices through application of the DICOM standard to dentistry.

At the Feb. 22 meeting of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics, the dental domain approved a work plan that will guide the development, currently underway, of the IHE profiles and technical documentation, and also to test vendor conformance at a future Connectathon.

IHE Connectathons are weeklong events where vendors and users of health care information systems test the implementation of interoperability standards among digital systems.

The working group will create the initial software and technical documentation that vendors will use to test their conformance to requirements spelled out in three approved ADA Technical Reports:

  • ADA Technical Report No. 1048 for the Attachment of DICOM Dataset Using Email;
  • ADA Technical Report No. 1060 for the Secure Exchange and Utilization of Digital Images in Dentistry;
  • ADA Technical Report No. 1023 for DICOM Requirements for Dentistry.

Future projects will include collaboration with IHE-Radiology Domain to develop an IHE profile on radiation exposure monitoring in dentistry.

For more information about the dental domain, contact Paul Bralower at Ext. 4139 or