What is Dicom and why you hear this word so often in healthcare

March 11, 2020
What is Dicom and why you hear this word so often in healthcare

Working in the digital healthcare sphere, you are likely to come across with an interesting term Dicom. We decided to introduce it to you.

DICOM is an abbreviation for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. It is an international IT standard used in the hospitals worldwide and ensures interoperability of systems that produce, process, store, print, and transmit information in medical imaging.

Imaging equipment and information systems with DICOM conformance can work with any workflow and EHR (electronic health record) systems. Usually, EHR systems with image information require Dicom standards. Purchasing equipment and IT systems conforming to Dicom standards, hospitals and clinics are ensured that these tools will smoothly interoperate with each other.

With Dicom Standards, the physician-patient-payer workflow becomes much faster. Since each of them receives a quick access to the images and reports, enabling faster diagnosis, more efficient care, and even lower costs.

To the most actively-using-Dicom industries belong radiology, cardiology, oncology, dentistry, surgery, neurology, breast imaging, radiotherapy, ophthalmology, pathology, veterinary, and pneumology.

Dicom is updated from 4 to 5 times every year or two. There are more than 20 active working groups with over 750 technical and medical experts. Dicom copyright belongs to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

Dicom does not define the whole architecture of an entire system nor it defines the functionality of a software product. It consists of a file format and a network communication protocol. The later is an application protocol that uses TCP/IP (end-to-end data communication specifying how data should be packetized, addressed, transmitted, routed, and received) for systems communication. Dicom files can be transferred between two entities that support images and patient data in Dicom format. It groups information into data sets, for instance, an image file always contains the patient ID within. As a result, the image cannot be separated from the ID. A Dicom data object if constituted of many attributes, though it can have only one attribute with pixel data. For the identical grayscale on different devices, the Dicom committee developed a lookup table for display of digitally assigned pixel values. Dicom grayscale standard display function (GSDF) is available by viewing images on the devices with this lookup curve or on the ones calibrated to the GSDF curve.

To sum up, Dicom standard makes it safe to use imaging technologies in healthcare regardless of a current location of physicians and enable them to instantly make right diagnoses.


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