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Imaging informatics accelerates change-agent role in ACA transition

by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
From the April 2015 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

In 1994, a hospital administrator would typically find the IT person in the hall on a ladder, sporting a tool belt and pulling cable through the drop ceiling. Cut to the present, the average administrator will find his IT person in a suit and tie working with a roomful of top people from all disciplines coordinating plans for sophisticated cloud-based software that pulls together all the information in a sprawling health care network and makes it available everywhere to everyone in a secure fashion on all devices, both those in network and those personal devices now carried by health care providers 24/7.

Welcome to Imaging Informatics 3.0. The one thing everyone seems to agree about in health care is that change is not a big enough word to describe the upheaval underway in the field. It is more than just new technology – it is really a story about change management in health care.

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“When I go to clinical meetings, I’m the IT guy,” Matt Bishop with UnityPoint Health tells HCBN. “But when I go to an IT meeting, I’m the clinical guy. Now, I have to know enough about medicine to educate the IT staff to help them do their jobs.” Bishop, serves as an Enterprise Solutions Architect, IT for UnityPoint Health in Iowa. He is one of the people at the mega-hospital system, which extends across four states and includes 32 hospitals and 280 clinics, charged with centralizing disparate sources of institutional patient knowledge scattered around dozens of applications and technologies.

Informatics is not just for the IT or radiology departments anymore. Everyone – from doctors to nurses to administrators – must now be well-versed. Unlike the old fee-for service system that paid for inefficiency, the new Affordable Care Act-driven value-based purchasing (VBP) system will punish any providers financially – hospitals and physicians – who try to cling to the old ways.

“I’ve seen doctors and nurses my age (early 50s) or older, who take the attitude that they are not going to adapt to the new applications and protocols,” Bishop says. “They consider going to work at another hospital only to find out the same change is going on there too. There is just no getting away from what is happening in imaging informatics in hospitals. It is completely changing the way clinicians do their work.”

Don Dennison, an expert in medical imaging informatics, owner of Don K. Dennison Solutions, Inc. and a board member at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM), notes that the viewpoint anyone has is very much dependent upon their field of expertise. “The current imaging systems like PACS were built over many years to make radiologists happy and productive,” Dennison says. “But now everyone relies on images to take care of the patient.” This principle is why meaningful use was introduced; to motivate hospitals and doctors, through financial support, to offset the cost of installing medical records systems that now link to imaging informatics.
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