by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | November 25, 2019
From the November 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
“What a radiologist doesn’t want to do is tell a patient they have a herniatiation of their esophagus. The doctor taking care of them knows that’s not the reason for their pain, but in telling the patient that, you just opened a whole new can of worms,” said Dr. Samir Shah, a radiologist and VP of clinical operations at Radiology Partners. “Radiologists themselves have always been considered the doctor’s doctor, not the doctor for the patient.”
Extending interoperability to outside networks
Modern radiology is a data aggregation business, enhanced by information pulled from EHRs about an individual patient. Consisting of demographics and population data, the facts drawn from these records can change how clinicians interpret images and determine if follow-up procedures are necessary or not.
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“Patients don’t obey those arbitrary professional boundaries of ‘one group reach for this hospital and another reach for that hospital,’” said Dr. Kurt Schoppe, chair of quality and board member for Radiology Associates of North Texas. “Avoiding the isolation of that data across those artificial professional boundaries allows us to make better decisions and provide a more valuable product to the patient. But it takes time to break those boundaries down.”
Some barriers are cultural or behavioral in nature, due to decades of storing and accessing data in separate silos. To Shah, the main problem arises from providers’ perceptions of one another.
“More hospitals consider themselves as competitors in the healthcare marketplace and are engaged in a land war to get as much territory as possible and make more money than their competitor systems,” he said. “Just because two hospitals are competing against each other in the same city, however, doesn’t mean the patient should have to suffer if some of their images are at one institution and some are at another.”
Other barriers revolve around the technology, such as data security. Rising hackings and ransomware attacks have made providers resistant to sharing data, fearing such attacks and the consequences of them, which can include steep monetary penalties and damage to an institution’s reputation.
Another is incompatible format exchange, in which the software system for one provider relays information in a format different from that of another. To communicate successfully, providers may be required to buy software that will enable one system to talk to the other.
“If the data’s a mess, and one computer expects the information in one format and the other is delivering it in another, you’ve completely impaired your ability to move to the next level of offering a service or achieving the goals that you set out for,” said Schoppe.