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Clinical collaboration: Linking platforms to achieve enterprise imaging that produces better diagnostic decisions

September 21, 2016
Cristine Kao
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Cristine Kao

A key objective for hospitals and other imaging services providers is delivering relevant clinical images to on-site and offsite physicians who need to review them to make diagnostic and treatment decisions for their patients. While medical imaging is typically thought of in terms of X-ray, CT and MR imaging studies, many (often most) images from dermatology, pathology, endoscopy, surgery and other departmental systems are stored in a native format such as ECG, JPEG, video formats and others. Achieving unified access to all of a patient’s images requires finding a way to link and access the systems that store different types of images.

Administrators need to ensure that all images contain relevant data tags and that the appropriate clinical context is archived for information life cycle management and accessibility. Connecting disparate image archives with an intelligent vendor-neutral archive (VNA) is often the first step in achieving enterprise imaging, since it often promises cost reductions through storage consolidation. A VNA stores data in standards-based formats that can be integrated with other systems throughout an enterprise. It can only deliver cost savings when it’s complemented with advanced workflow capabilities for ingestion, management and distribution of both structured and unstructured clinical data. Using interoperability standards such as IHE-XDS (cross-document sharing) can minimize the need for costly integration of proprietary data formats and duplication of administrative tasks while ensuring long-term access to data.

The VNA also opens up the possibility of leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure for further cost savings, security and management benefits. A good example is a regional health care system in Spain, the Andalusian Health Service, where a new cloud VNA created savings of €1.58 million ($1.76 million) during the first 15 months of use. The platform also has improved access to clinical data for more than 16,000 physicians in its 80-hospital network. This regional system generates nearly 10 million exams a year and its VNA now includes radiology, nuclear medicine, endoscopy, ECG and other forms of clinical data. Embedding an image viewer within the EMR elevates the value for users since they can easily and securely access, manage and share data.

The best choice is a zero-footprint viewer that is not confined to a single system or facility and is compatible with different operating systems and devices. Physicians or patients can gain quick access to image data if the viewer is able to pull data from PACS, VNA or XDS repositories and other archives, and then display images within the portal. Many health care facilities have discovered that the best way to achieve their goals is to implement a clinical collaboration platform (CCP) that delivers patient-centric management of clinical images and data. Users can select services such as EMR-enabled access, vendor-neutral archiving, departmental workflow management or a universal viewer for physicians and patients.

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