To realize clinical data exchange between healthcare providers, there must be many standards in many layers. Terms and codes should be standardized, syntax to wrap the data must be mutually parsable, then transfer protocol or exchange media should be agreed. Among many standards for the syntax, HL7 and DICOM are most successful. However, everything could not be handled by HL7 solely. DICOM is good for radiology images, but, other clinical images are already handled by other 'lighter' data formats like JPEG, TIFF. So, it is not realistic to use only one standard for every area of clinical information. For description of medical records, especially for narrative information, an standard generalized mark-up language, document type definition (SGML DTD) for medical information, called MML (medical markup language) had been created in Japan. It is already implemented in more than ten healthcare providers. However, it is again not realistic to use MML solely for clinical information in various level of detail. Therefore, we proposed a guideline for use of available medical standards to facilitate clinical information exchange between healthcare providers. It is called MERIT-9 (MEdical Records, Images, Texts, -Information eXchange). A typical use is HL7 messages, DICOM files, referred from an MML file in a patient record, as external entities. Both MML and MERIT-9 have been research projects of Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare and the purpose is to facilitate clinical data exchanges. They are becoming to be used in technical specifications for new hospital information systems in Japan.
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