Why DICOM is helpful

David F. Wiley

DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) provides a necessary format for handling device connectivity. Most importantly, it provides a means for:

  1. Handling one-, two, and three-dimensional data such as ultra-sound, CT, MRI, and PET.
  2. Handling time-varying data such as streamed ultra-sound images.
  3. Resolving endian issues in binary data storage since different processor types (i.e., Intel versus power-PC) store bits in a different order.
  4. Providing a means to store data in separate “tags”, allowing quite a bit of flexibility within the format.
  5. Providing a means for individual manufacturers to store private data, such as device settings, within a DICOM file.
  6. Storing patient information within each file for easy connection back to the patient.
  7. Permitting the removal of patient information to support HIPAA compliance.

In all, the success of DICOM cannot be disputed. It has provided a means for medical devices to connect to one another for decades. By all accounts, it has been a raging success in enabling device communication, collaboration, innovation, and has improved the healthcare process substantially for patients, physicians, and healthcare organizations.