Effective Teleradiology

2011-06-22
 

teleradiology workflowIn a previous post, Teleradiology: A New Frontier in Medical Imaging, we wrote about the “new” phenomenon of teleradiology and how it’s changed medical imaging for the better. In this post, we want to lay out the basics of an effective teleradiology system.

Hardware and Software

Effective teleradiology demands:

  • A web-based 3D PACS (to allow medical imaging professionals to read all kinds of images)
  • An RIS, preferably with speech-recognition technology
  • Integration with the healthcare organization’s other software
  • Secure – that is, includes strong security features – storage and transmission of images and patient information
  • Access for referring physicians

Workflow Arrangements

Good IT isn’t enough to make a teleradiology system efficient and productive. Everyone in the system, especially the medical imaging professionals, needs to follow a well-developed workflow plan. Although different healthcare organizations will require different workflow plans, some general rules apply to any workflow system:

  • Central management. This can be provided by internal staff (like hospital administrators) or external staff (like a healthcare services company), but it can’t be neglected. Someone needs to have an understanding of the system as a whole and be able to make changes as needs and technology change.
  • Easy (and secure) access. Medical imaging professionals throughout the system, along with referring physicians, should be able to view images (and comments) anywhere in the system and, if possible, off-site. (Labeling, Assignments, and Communication) All medical images should be tagged so that they immediately go to the right medical imaging professional. Images waiting in a queue should be accompanied by clear tasks, due dates, and a way to check off a task once it is completed.
  • Tracking and Measurement. This is the only way to discover what works in the system and what doesn’t. Without good data, a teleradiology system is bound to perpetuate inefficiencies.
  • Contracts. These are necessary when two or more healthcare organizations are working collaboratively. They should spell out, in complete detail, the responsibilities of each organization.

The number of medical imaging professionals is expected to increase by two percent in the coming years, but the demand for medical images is expected to increase by eight percent in the same time frame. Thus, it’s more important than ever that healthcare organizations use their radiology resources wisely. Teleradiology systems, if they have the right equipment, software, and workflow arrangements, are a way to do just that.

For more information about teleradiology, see this article from Aunt Minnie (which has links to other helpful articles as well).

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