DICOM Tag Morphing Connects Disparate Health IT Systems

Much like spoken languages, DICOM is constantly evolving and different manufacturers speak DICOM in different ways with various “accents.” As a result, DICOM tags vary between manufacturers. Dicom Systems’ mission ensures interoperability between health IT systems, regardless of the specific “accent” or “origin” of tags used by a particular manufacturer.

What Is Tag Morphing?

“Tag morphing” refers to changing the values in one or more DICOM attributes.
A tag that identifies the attribute is usually in the format (XXXX,XXXX) with hexadecimal numbers.
Examples of DICOM attribute tags include:
  • Patient’s Name
  • Patient’s Age
  • Allergies
  • Smoking Status
  • Clinical Trial Subject ID
  • Body Part Examined
And dozens of other attributes related to a patient record or parameters of the imaging study.

List of DICOM tags. Source ResearchGate
Tag morphing may be done “statically,” in which case only one mapping is performed, or “dynamically,” in which case multiple mappings, each specific to a particular recipient, are performed.

Why Is Tag Morphing Important?

Healthcare providers use a variety of devices, old and new, with varying degrees of adherence to the DICOM standards. New IT solutions often need to accurately communicate with older devices that may have been deployed at the invention era of imaging devices, in order to speak to the “accent” of DICOM that was prevalent at that time.
In order for today’s advanced imaging IT solutions to interpret the DICOM output of older DICOM devices, or non-DICOM devices, it is vital to be able to transform tags (tag morphing), or create them if they don’t exist in the devices’ output.
Conversely, older devices may include some proprietary or retired DICOM tags that cannot be resolved by newer IT solutions, making it necessary to replace them or transform them so they are rendered unusable.

How Tag Morphing Enables Interoperability to Solve Use Cases

There are as many different manifestations of tag morphing situations, as there are DICOM tags in existence, and perhaps more, depending on the context. Here are a few examples:
  • The PACS/MIMPS receiving the images may not be capable of resolving special characters in one of the tags, requiring the special character to be removed before the images can be ingested by the PACS/MIMPS
  • An older imaging device may be outputting a date format that cannot be resolved by the PACS/MIMPS or other applications, requiring the date to be transformed to an acceptable format.
  • A cardiology PACS/MIMPS may not be able to correctly display ultrasound image frames in the correct order because the device output shows values in the DICOM tags that cannot be interpreted by the PACS/MIMPS.

How The Unifier Achieves Tag Morphing

Within the Dicom Systems Unifier framework, tag morphing can be achieved in many different ways. All transformations occur in memory, either on the way into, or out of the Unifier Appliance. This approach to tag morphing substantially improves speed and performance for our customers, as the process does not require changes to first be committed to a database before they occur.

Conventional tag morphing can usually be implemented as a regular expression nested within a routing rule. More complex DICOM tag substitutions, removals or transformations can also be automated on a massive scale by designing the desired transformations into a LUA script to augment the level of efficiency and automation of the routing and transformation rules.

To learn more about the Unifier platform’s tag morphing functionality, or to discuss your enterprise imaging workflow needs, schedule a demo with our team.