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"Big Data" comes to medical imaging

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | June 27, 2013
From the June 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The silo-breaking, which Morgan calls phase 1 for analytics, is nonetheless proceeding. Medicalis, Primordial and M*Modal, for instance, are all vendors working to provide analytics on top of PACS you’re already running, mostly by offering software that listens to the HL7 messages — pre-formed data packets—generated by different medical software systems and wraps it up under one user interface.

To see how effective this is, the industry also needs solid case studies of how people can most benefit from analytics, and how they’re using indicators and so-called dashboards — analytics tools that gather key metrics together in one place. Some information is trickling in. This spring, the Journal of the American College of Radiology published a study on the use of dashboards by academic medical centers in the U.S., finding that nearly two-thirds used them to track patient volume, turnaround times and access to MRIs and other high-end devices.

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But the programs were fairly new, with about half saying they used the dashboard technology for less than two years, the study said.

One possible answer to the backroom analytics headaches — of getting programs working together — might be discovered in the world of startups. Analytics Informatics, a spinoff founded by Paul Nagy, at Johns Hopkins University, and Christopher Meenan at the University of Maryland, is laying out one promising strategy, Morgan says. The idea behind the company is that if several institutions run the same “under the blankets” technology — sort of like the Android operating system being common to different kinds of phones or tablets — they can more easily create tools or apps on top that can be shared among different institutions without having to invest too much time from their IT teams.

“Once you’re mapped into the system, all the complexity fades away,” Morgan says. “If I build a little tool that tracks scanner utilization, anyone else using the same platform will also (be able to use it).”

“Now you’re able to be creative,” he adds.

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