Visualizing the Future of Healthcare: Images as Organizational Assets
Healthcare organizations across the globe are under pressure to deliver quality, outcomes-based care while reducing unnecessary costs. One way to achieve this is to empower physicians with easy, direct access to all of a patient’s clinically relevant medical data. While this understanding has led to a meteoric rise in electronic health record (EHR) systems, one significant roadblock to ultimate clinical productivity still exists: most of the EHRs available on the market today do not complement the textual data with clinically relevant images.
In order to reduce these inefficiencies, medical imaging workflows must follow the footsteps of the EHR, transforming into a comprehensive multi-departmental enterprise imaging platform. This singular platform provides common enterprise services (interfacing, authentication, archiving, image exchange, visualization, etc.) as well as departmental imaging acquisition and management services from cardiology to radiology, GI to ophthalmology, dermatology to pathology, wound care to point-of-care US, among others.
Significant value could be realized in a wide variety of medical imaging specialties, including radiology, if patient images were automatically attributed to the clinical context in which they are captured.
With recent transformations in the healthcare environment, many facilities are finding this situation increasingly intolerable, putting them at risk of withheld reimbursements further impacting already tight margins. In order to achieve the outcomes expected not only today, but to anticipate the changing demands of the future, there arises need for a single, converged platform approach.
This interoperable platform would provide multi-specialty informatics and imaging services, archival, enterprise content management, image exchange, mobile display and acquisition with tools for physician collaboration, patient engagement, foreign study management and regional health services, without the detriments of multi-vendor environments.
Here’s how enterprise imaging meets those needs:
Patient satisfaction increases as visual information is shared with patients and their families. Engagement improves the ability of patients to take ownership of their care. Access to imaging information within a patient portal provides compliance-enabling support with improved understanding due to access to visual information.
In addition to the satisfaction inherent in having easy access to professional tools such as relevant information and collaboration with peers, care providers can quickly launch and capture images within the encounter using standardized descriptions and the correct patient metadata.
Administrators are more satisfied as, over time, continuity-of-care performance and reduced-cost profiles are advanced.
When reviewing new imaging studies, clinicians have convenient access to the patient's historical imaging record in a single, familiar user interface, providing greater ability to interpret and diagnose, and allowing them to provide greater detail to physicians initiating treatment plans. Continuity of care improves as transitions between providers become smoother and better-informed, supporting population health management and potentially leading to fewer hospital readmissions, fewer ED visits, increased patient safety and improved management of chronic diseases. Enterprise imaging empowers care teams across modalities and geographies to collaborate easily for the benefit of quality care.
Electronic secure data
Images and text records that would have been stored remotely in files and folders across clinical departments and among the patient's different physicians become a strategic asset as they are brought into a single point of access, enterprisewide, enabling broad collaboration. Format should be anon-issue — enterprise imaging houses studies from virtually any device, from virtually any format – DICOM, DICOM SR and, importantly, non-DICOM images such as MPEG, AVI, WMV, MP3, JPEG, TIFF, BMP, CINE, WMA, PDF and more. Text files such as DOC and TXT can be imported as well, saving re-keying time and avoiding the potential for inputting errors. Images from mobile devices, such as in point-of-care US or digital cameras can be added securely.
Patient engagement and population management
The availability of current and prior studies at the point of care – even at bedside – can better engage patients, and provide them with clear understanding of their diagnoses and treatment plan. For instance, radiologists and cardiologists remotely located using mobile devices can collaborate with other clinicians or with patients to explain images on screen, even using pointers to highlight areas as they explain their interpretations. This can help drive increased patient awareness and compliance, or encourage behavior modification such as smoking cessation or weight control, supporting population health management initiatives.
Enterprise imaging can lead to savings for your facility – savings in time and in cost. The radiology department can contain costs by being more efficient and removing silos within its own walls – consolidating images from subspecialties such as nuclear medicine, breast imaging, and emergency departments (EDs) into a single point of access. In cardiology, non-invasive data such as ECG and invasive imaging results can be visualized, enabling a holistic cardiology record. Similar enterprise imaging workflows are possible in dermatology and ophthalmology, and this modular approach could be extended to ED, wound care and other clinical imaging areas.
Providing integrated visual healthcare services drives your organization’s clinical best practices. Ready access to medical images and reports can mean faster and more productive appointments and rounds throughout the hospital, improving workflows, increasing patient volume and enhancing the experience for all parties. Ready access to images can help maximize revenue entitlements from third-party payers and avoid penalties and maximize bonuses available. Ready access to images can avoid the practice of re-exposing patients to medical tests – potentially dangerous and frustrating to the patient, as well as potentially both care delaying and non-reimbursable. Enterprisewide access to images can help speed timely patient discharge by making comparative visual information easily available to gatekeepers. Ready access to images can help reduce the amount of resources needed to address risk minimization efforts. And most important, access to images supports a quality, secure, collaborative, evidence-based level of care for every patient who enters the doors of your hospital.
About the Author:
Dr. Anjum M. Ahmed (MBBS, MBA, MIS, ITIL), Sr. Global Clinical Informatics Executive, Agfa HealthCare