January 29, 2016
Three Key Tips to Implementing an Imaging Interoperability Platform
Health Data Management recently reported that healthcare organizations are not taking full advantage of enterprise imaging technology. They pointed to results of a recent survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics that showed that despite the wide adoption of PACs and other communications systems, there is still a lack of enterprise image viewing.
Clinical image sharing platforms can help bridge this gap by providing interoperability for outside exams, helping to create a tighter integration for imaging within a health system’s divergent data systems. This also enables all physicians to quickly access the studies they need to complete their work.
Based on our experiences, we’ve found that there are three key things to consider when implementing an imaging interoperability platform.
Get the clinical users involved. Radiology isn’t the only image-intensive specialty; in most health systems there are many. At the minimum, get Cardiology, Oncology and Neurology involved in the decision-making process, in conjunction with Radiology. Understand their needs, their pain points and what they wish they could be doing better for patients.
Use a skilled project manager. This person will oversee both technical and clinical workflows, and will need access to a variety of departments to plug your healthcare system into an imaging platform. Integration will not happen in a vacuum, and it will be tighter and more effectively executed when there’s a single point person coordinating the various clinical specialties, IT teams, compliance and training.
Plan for the future. Image sharing is moving through “crawl-walk-run” stages. Standards are evolving, and although imaging is a few years ahead of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s 10-year interoperability roadmap for EHR data, there are still evolving standards that will make image sharing more seamless and alert-based over time. Getting rid of CD-burners and films and allowing physicians to send imaging back and forth in the equivalent of unsearchable PDFs was the “crawl” stage. “Walking” is now, where we’re implementing EHR integrations, and outside imaging and accompanying data is more actionable. The future “run stage” is an intelligent network that will detect a patient’s new imaging study and alert the appropriate caregivers that it is available for viewing. Ask prospective vendors how they are planning for this future state of clinical imaging network-to-network automation. If they’re not ready, you might be investing and wasting your implementation efforts in an interim, “throwaway” platform forcing you to start over in a few years.
Finally, in every aspect of a purchasing decision, keep the patient in mind. Understand that the technology and workflows you’re setting up have an end-goal of bringing in outside imaging studies for your physicians and letting patients have access to their data away from your network. Doing less than this will risk a future where patients receive their care from more responsive providers.