The pressure on hospitals continues to build as CMS payments decrease, special payments like tax breaks and incentive funding expire, and utilization declines. To survive, many large hospitals have merged with smaller ones in an effort to maintain operating profits through asset consolidation. Other hospitals are expanding vertically, purchasing ambulatory care facilities, home care agencies, and free-standing dialysis clinics. Some are doing both.
In the midst of all this change, plus repeated cost-reduction directives, medical imaging executives are seeking guidance. Specifically, they’re asking: What is the role of imaging in a consolidated environment and/or one that involves care across multiple settings?
The answer is medical imaging systems that move imaging from individual departments to the enterprise level. When each diagnostic imaging department operates as a silo using equipment that doesn’t communicate with other providers, it greatly hinders a hospital system’s ability to reduce total cost of ownership and streamline workflow.
Enterprise-level medical imaging systems allow the benefits of consolidation to be realized. For example, an enterprise work-list shows executives a single view of all jobs across the enterprise. It allows them to use rule-based assignments to ensure image studies are read in the most effective, least expensive place within the system, greatly reducing total cost of ownership.
In the same vein, highly interoperable medical imaging systems help reduce IT costs by embedding third-party solutions into their core applications. Instead of a PACS from one vendor, an advanced visualization application from another vendor and a breast-imaging system from a third, one system seamlessly incorporates all this functionality. Decreasing the number of IT systems helps decreases internal complexity, a prerequisite for connecting to external providers such as surgery centers, orthopedic practices, and mammography clinics.
Working with multiple care settings also requires a high level of connectivity. Images and the relevant data must flow from the hospital where the image was acquired to the outpatient mammography clinic to the pathology clinic dealing with a biopsy and to the oncology clinic where treatment takes place. Along the way, physicians in different locations must be able to simultaneously view and annotate the image.
Of course, a wholesale replacement of departmental equipment is completely unrealistic. Equipment recently purchased and/or highly optimized for pathology procedures must stay in place, and even older equipment is not always a candidate for removal. Instead, hospitals are turning to enterprise image repositories and system-wide clinical reference viewers that allow image access across the enterprise.
Of particular importance to hospitals as fiscal pressures grow is ensuring their enterprise-wide systems are vendor neutral. Maximizing investments in other hospital systems or external providers requires images to flow freely from care setting to care setting, regardless of the equipment on which they were captured.
If you are heading to SIIM, May 15-17, visit McKesson booth #425 to get an in-depth view of our vendor neutral archive, clinical data exchange and workflow solutions which can help you facilitate your operational success in a consolidated environment.