The data that exists in health systems is exponentially more complicated than it was ten years ago. Traditionally, modalities in dedicated imaging facilities and environments created images but now, image data sources can include mobile devices and digital cameras. The images from these new “modalities” provide extra information that can be used to document the patient condition, track changes over time and add context for diagnoses. But including these non-radiology images in your existing strategy can pose a challenge since the processes for acquiring, managing and governing them aren’t nearly as structured or established as the workflows that exist today in radiology departments.
Additionally, health systems need solutions that let their users share patient data between departments and between health systems in ways that are convenient, secure, and efficient. The technology to create this environment exists, but a major undertaking like this one comes with its share of challenges.
In the new IWS eBook, Beyond Imaging: Key Components for a Holistic Enterprise Imaging Strategy, we wanted to offer a guide for health systems that are developing a comprehensive integrated enterprise imaging strategy that incorporates medical images regardless of source. We asked industry experts to identify obstacles that slow adoption, and then to discuss the possibilities of a next-generation implementation.
Erkan Akyuz is the President of Imaging and Workflow Solutions at McKesson. He talks about the importance of a comprehensive enterprise imaging strategy in both the eBook and in the extended Q&A below. Read on for his thoughts on this theme, and then download the full eBook to hear from other industry experts.
Q: What are some of the key benefits to an integrated enterprise imaging strategy?
A: An integrated strategy helps unlock access to the most relevant patient data, which is crucial for more-informed diagnoses. Physicians working in large enterprises with data in many systems need to be able to find the “needle in the haystack”, or the data that can make a difference to a patient. An integrated enterprise strategy is patient-centric, providing access to relevant clinical data like lab results, medications, pathology reports and more. It makes the right information available when and where it’s needed to keep patients at the center of care.
In addition to the benefits realized by patients, a more integrated approach to care can result in efficiencies for the health system as well. When there are less redundant or duplicate procedures, there are less costs.
Q: What are some of the obstacles or challenges that health systems face?
A: Three key challenges to enterprise imaging are: cultural change, interoperability, and security.
The first thing I mentioned – cultural change – is critical. Many health systems underestimate the level of effort that’s required to take full advantage of an enterprise-wide imaging program.. Achieving success in this area takes more than a collection of solutions or a vast aggregation of data; it takes an in-depth understanding of the ways technology can be used to unify all the processes and people that interact within a large health system; simply adding a few new policies doesn’t guarantee progress. Going from a departmental, technology-focused strategy to one that incorporates the needs of the entire health system is only possible when there’s a new mindset. Making a change management program part of an enterprise imaging program can help smooth the transition. This type of program can be a make or break factor when it comes to the success or failure of an enterprise strategy.
The second challenge health systems face is interoperability. Getting the right data to the right people at the right time is the key to improving outcomes. But connecting all the departmental solutions that contain this data and then making it accessible isn’t easy. It’s also important to realize that interoperability goes beyond connecting disparate sources to exchanging relevant image-related data in context. If you’re starting from scratch, it makes sense to demand interoperability from your vendors – modern technology should be designed this way. But if you’re working with legacy systems, you may need to invest time and effort to create a smooth exchange.
Security is a third major challenge for many, particularly after seeing health systems held hostage by hackers. While hacking is one concern, the day-to-day security challenge also includes compliance with legal and regulatory obligations. To manage the risk, organizations need to balance security with the need for data distribution. Since security policies permeate all levels of your enterprise IT systems, this balance stems from policies established by the leadership team, which cross departments and facilities.
Q: What are the foundations of an enterprise imaging strategy?
A: In my opinion, there are three fundamental principles that create the groundwork for an enterprise imaging program:
- Shared clinical expertise. Specialized departmental solutions reflect the clinical depth and expertise of the people using them. Your strategy should make information from these systems accessible to other caregivers on demand. If you use your clinical use cases as the basis for your strategy, your enterprise will be well positioned to share knowledge, data and expertise across its departments and facilities, which will help drive better outcomes for your patients.
- Interoperable platforms. After you articulate a strategy that reflects the clinical needs of all your stakeholders, make sure to choose a platform that supports the workflows and use cases you’ve developed. Choosing solutions with inherent support for IHE and DICOM standards enables multi-vendor collaboration and data sharing. When data can move out of departmental silos, it becomes accessible for any clinician who needs it at the point of care.
- Defined governance policy. To effectively implement a true enterprise strategy, a system-wide governance policy around image acquisition, sharing, distribution and storage should be agreed upon before you implement your systems. That way, you’ll be able to make sure your technical stakeholders will support an infrastructure that drives the clinical use cases you outlined as your foundation.
To learn more about the challenges and the potential benefits of a comprehensive enterprise imaging program, download Beyond Imaging: Key Components for a Holistic Enterprise Imaging Strategy.