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IT Matters - Image access strategies

February 20, 2016
Don Dennison
From the January/February 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By: Don Dennison

This is the first of a two-part series in which we will explore trends for optimizing imaging systems for two distinctly different user communities.

The consolidated enterprise

As organizations acquire, merge, or affiliate with others, consolidated enterprises are becoming the norm. The facilities within these blended organizations seek efficiencies and standardized clinical information access, such as a shared Electronic Medical Record (EMR), to gain the benefits of their combined size and abilities.

Having a strategy that works for all imaging users in a consolidated enterprise is important. While order placement for imaging procedures and scheduling and acquisition workflows are also important, we are going to focus on image access.

There are many types of imaging users, with different needs, but this series will explore two high-level types: diagnostic users and imaging consumers. Understanding your users and knowing their needs is critical to developing a successful strategy.

Diagnostic users
These users’ primary need for image access is to provide or support the review, interpretation, and reporting of imaging exams. They often need advanced toolsets and multiple monitors, and require non-imaging applications, such as voice recognition and reporting, to perform their tasks. The most common platform for their daily work is a PACS. They typically have powerful, dedicated workstations with special monitors and devices, such as speech microphones.

Imaging consumers
These users have general needs, often using imaging as just one type of information, along with clinical data from the EMR, to perform their primary tasks. They use images to support their treatment planning and delivery. They may be mobile, performing work at different locations, including remotely. They typically do their work on standard computers with one or two monitors. While these users have used PACS for image access for many years, it has proved to be costly to deploy and maintain across the enterprise. Many of them find PACS complex to use. Increasingly, many of these users are shifting to an enterprise viewer, embedded right in the EMR.

PACS consolidation
The benefits of sharing a PACS across an enterprise are both economic and clinical. In addition to saving costs through economies of scale, having only one system to support and maintain reduces complexity and allows support staff to better service and optimize the system. Any built-in or integrated communication tools provide important collaboration methods within a facility (such as tech to rad) and across facilities (for instance, rad to rad or rad to clinician).

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