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An enterprise imaging program optimizes your EHR strategy

February 07, 2017
From the January 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Louis Lannum

A significant number of caregivers rely on the information in the EHR to provide medical services, develop treatment plans and manage the patient’s episode of care. According to some sources, 65 percent of all clinical content acquired on a patient is missing and unavailable in the EHR at the point of care. It is not surprising that most EHR implementations are incomplete. Not all clinical information on a patient is accessible through the EHR, and a large portion of that data is imaging content. Nearly every department or clinical area within a health care organization generates some type of image content that is trapped in various department silos either on nonintegrated department image management systems or on some type of portable unsecured media.

The number and type of medical imaging content being acquired and stored within a health care organization continues to expand. Managing these images for some organizations has become a challenge, especially for image producing service lines outside of radiology. Outside of the traditional radiology and cardiology imaging environments, images are being acquired during procedures, and for evidence documentation, and are not typically viewable in the EHR. For example, images captured during an endoscopic procedure, or photos taken to help document wound care assessments, are typically retained within the departments and are missing from the complete digital health record.

With so many caregivers accessing the EHR to effectively manage and treat the patient, a health care organization must begin to address the integration of this missing information and create a longitudinal image record that is correlated to the clinical content in the EHR. An effective enterprise imaging strategy will help assess the scope of imaging acquisition services and areas within the organization. This will allow for the development and design of a road map documenting the steps and technology necessary to capture, manage, store and access the images generated by this growing number of imaging producing areas.

There are several challenges organizations face when beginning to define and implement an enterprise imaging strategy. In most organizations, there is a service-line (department) focus to most image strategies and image management operations. Each department is responsible for their own imaging program and processes without a global view of image access and sharing. This approach satisfies the specific clinical and technical requirements of the individual department, but may be failing to align with enterprise and corporate goals.

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