DICOM: A must for diagnostic integrity

2008 11 10 13 09 04 626 Farman Thumb2

Editor's note: Allan Farman's column, Talking Pictures, appears regularly on the DrBicuspid.com advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

To protect the diagnostic imaging data of patients, and to protect the practitioner from being the captive client of a single vendor, dentists should use a standard image file format that can interoperate with any practice management system.

Fortunately, such a standard already exists: the ISO-referenced DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) format.

This format, which is advocated by the ADA, has been demonstrated by the leading manufacturers of dental digital imaging equipment at each of the past several annual congresses of the American Dental Association. Should interoperability of diagnostic images for portability of patient data be desired, dentists should be careful to buy only digital imaging equipment and imaging software that permits DICOM image export and import.

DICOM images have information tags that include unique patient identifiers, the source and date of the acquired image, its laterality, and whether it is original or enhanced. Without such attached information, a digital image should be considered no different than a loose film radiograph found in the bottom of a filing cabinet. In other words, nontagged digital images should not be used for diagnostic purposes because their provenance and integrity cannot be verified.

The ADA is actively involved in promoting standards such as DICOM through its Standards Committee on Dental Informatics (SCDI) and membership of various standards bodies. The SCDI has various active working groups that involve manufacturers, users, and other interested parties.

If you are interested, I encourage you to consider participating in helping to improve imaging and informatics standards for the dental profession by contributing to the SCDI process and related activities.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2008 DrBicuspid.com

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