Call for standardisation of digital imaging across eye care services

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) and The College of Optometrists have called for the standardisation of digital imaging across eye care services.

“Currently, there is no standardisation across ophthalmic imaging technologies with the consequence that there is no easy way to exchange digital images between systems,” their statement reads. “Standardisation of digital imaging across eye care services would ensure that there is interoperability and a seamless interface that allows effective image sharing.”

The standardisation of imaging will support a seamless interface with technology, to allow joined-up patient care and the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which the colleges call “ultimately effective” in preventing avoidable sight loss.

The colleges note that interoperability in diagnostic eye care imaging will also help to transform the timely care of patients, supporting accessibilities and efficiencies. By sharing diagnostic images and patient records between primary and secondary care, the ability make quicker and more efficient decisions to prevent sight loss is expanded.

Clinicians and healthcare professionals, patient groups and the manufacturing industry have come together and agreed that developing a set of standards will drive interoperability of digital systems.

These standards include making compliance and image sharing easy and clear for all involved; working towards a basic “.dcm output” from all newly sold devices, populated with agreed metadata, to help clinicians identify necessary details; creating subset definitions of Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standards for how imaging files should be configured, extracted and saved; moving to 100 percent adherence to DICOM standards; and developing an audit mechanism to support adherence to these standards.

Anthony Khawaja, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Chair RCOphth Informatics and Data, commented: “Our ability to prevent sight-loss from common eye diseases is hugely reliant on our sophisticated eye imaging systems. However, these systems do not communicate with each other, which makes accessing important patient information challenging. Together with industry and stakeholders, we are working towards standards that will enable effective image sharing and transformative research to improve eye care and prevent blindness.”

The statement adds: “It is imperative that all national health service systems in the UK use the expertise of those professions involved in eye care to make a difference, future-proofing the care of patients through innovation and standardisation in the use of digital imaging systems.”