Vendor Neutral Archives
Reducing medical data silos is important for a number of reasons. If data is siloed and medical images can’t be readily accessed where and when needed, staff members may spend valuable time searching for and sending them. That leaves providers with less time to care for patients. If an image must be retaken, healthcare costs will increase and the patient’s radiation exposure will go up, which may lead to a reduction in quality of care and most likely harm patient satisfaction.
Data silos are a problem for health systems around the country. However, there are strategies available that can help healthcare teams eliminate medical data silos and access the images they need when and where they’re needed.
Patients who live in rural areas face significant health disparities when compared to the general population. From higher rates of disease to lower life expectancies, higher rates of pain and suffering to fewer physicians, rural healthcare has a number of considerable challenges. Solutions that help improve the delivery of care in rural areas are highlighted in the following medical imaging case studies. These real-world examples depict how technology can help reduce report turnaround, provide high-tech services in rural areas and support improvements to patient care.
Case Study #1 | Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, Omaha
For emergency department managers, complaints are a serious and complex issue. They are worrisome due to concerns of possible litigation – emergency medicine is one of the top 10 specialties facing a higher number of lawsuits – and because dissatisfied patients are at odds with goals to improve patient satisfaction and care.
At the same time, ED staff is working in an extremely challenging environment. Physicians must determine whether a patient is truly in pain or feigning it to get, for example, a Percocet prescription. Staff may have to tend to another patient whose partner is becoming belligerent and appears under the influence. Nevertheless, amidst the chaos that can be an ED, there are helpful strategies for handling patient complaints – whether they’re coming from patients or the patients’ loved ones.
It’s virtually impossible to deliver the best outcome to every patient in every care setting without a high level of IT integration. But that level was something of a stretch goal for the team at UnityPoint Health, given that the 30-hospital network stretches across large swaths of Iowa and Illinois.
As leaders at UnityPoint looked to solve their care coordination problems, they quickly realized the need for a centralized architecture to manage medical imaging. They put together a cross-functional team to create an RFP detailing their goal of standardizing and integrating their medical imaging IT platforms.
The last thing an organization looking to consolidate patient images and streamline image sharing needs is a vendor neutral archive that’s not truly vendor neutral. So, how can you quickly sift through the hype to determine whether a product is a gussied-up PACS or a true VNA?
It’s actually not as hard as it seems. PACS are optimized for data injection—i.e., absorbing images from multiple modalities into the system so they can be diagnosed by radiologists and other imaging specialists. Vendor neutral archives, in contrast, must be optimized for outbound communication so that thousands of referring specialists in the community can access patient images. Any product you’re evaluating that doesn’t simplify workflow for all users (not just within or between departments) and enable image data sharing between disparate healthcare systems is not a true vendor neutral archive.
What is Image Results Anyway?
“Image Results” is the name of a Meaningful Use 2 menu objective. So you could conceivably just opt out of doing it if you already have six of the other menu objectives well covered. But since most hospitals will find it to be a quick win and it is so valuable to quality patient care, it would be a shame not to address it. Also, it is probably going to be core in MU3, so why put it off?
It’s amazing how quickly we’ve all gotten used to having not just our phone, but all the information on the Internet, in our pocket. In fact, limited access to an information system tends to aggravate us — like not being able to read medical images from home or when we travel. Of course, massive data requirements and privacy issues make image access a great deal more complex than serving up a social media account or even a basic patient record.
[Note: Read part 1 of this series here]
A Crash Course on Diagnostic Imaging Departments for the MU Team
If you already work in the radiology or cardiology department, you can skip this section and advance to the next one.
If you are a member of the Meaningful Use implementation team at your hospital, you are likely trying to figure out a lot of unfamiliar jargon coming from those nice folks in your imaging departments. Here is what you need to know to communicate with them on this topic.
This article will interest you if you live in the United States and are:
- A radiology or cardiology professional who has been asked a bunch of questions filled with unfamiliar acronyms and words like “Image Results,” “170.314(a)(12),” and “MU2” by your hospital’s Meaningful Use team, or you are
- On your hospital’s Meaningful Use team who just received blank stares when you asked your radiology department team to assist you with adding the “Image Results” to the objectives you can achieve.
As hospital organizations realize the ever increasing amounts of stored imaging data residing in their PACS systems, they are beginning to question their image archiving strategies.
The cost of medical imaging data storage has increased due to advances in digital imaging scans. These rising costs coupled with other environmental factors have caused vendor neutral archives (VNA) to grow in popularity, representing a true solution for hospitals wanting greater control over how their images are stored and used.
The most attractive benefit for choosing a vendor neutral archive for many health care IT departments is in eliminating the need to migrate data from its PACS which is costly and cumbersome.