This page contains links to various sources of information about healthcare information interchange standards.


DICOM stands for “DIgital COmmunication in Medicine” and it is the universally accepted standard for exchange of radiological images (X-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI etc.), but it is also used for other medical imaging, such as dermatology, ophthalmology and even pathology.  It specifies all aspects of the data exchange process, from low level formatting and image compression, to templates for different types of images, and it even has its own (very complex) network protocol.

More information :  (or search this web site, which contains a lot of information on DICOM!)


HL7 is the standard widely used for the exchange of patient administrative data, and to a much lesser extent, simple clinical data such as laboratory results, and it comes in 2 flavours. “Version 2 (V2)” which uses simple text messages using separator characters such as ^ and |, is about 20 years old, but is well-established, and not too difficult to use, especially as the associated network protocol is very simple.  “Version 3 (V3)” is much more complex, and though it was initially specified for use in the ill-fated English National Programme for IT, it has never gained much traction in the real world as a communication mechanism.  Oddly enough though, the “file” version of the standard, in the form of the “Clinical Document Architecture” has become the currently most accepted form of structured data for electronic medical records.

More information :


Integrating the Health Enterprise (IHE) is not technically speaking a standard in itself, but is a body which reviews standards, and produces “profiles” which recommend which standards to use, in which ways for which purposes.  It is also the body which organises the multi-vendor “connectathon” testing sessions.

Despite the above theory, IHE has actually developed a standard for the sharing, storage and indexing of clinical documents, called “Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing” (XDS), which is supported by multiple vendors.  Adoption around the world is happening slowly, even in some parts of the UK, and although it is the closest that there is to an agreed international standard for general electronic healthcare records, the number of systems actually deployed around the world is still not large.

More information:

If you have any questions about these (or other) healthcare interoperability standards, please do get in touch: