Imaging in 2017: An Evolution in Value and Standards


The term “value” means different things to different people in medical imaging.

Technologists define value through the quality of the medical images acquired in diagnostic procedures. Radiologists view it as a contribution to patient care through the interpretation of images. For referring clinicians, value is in the diagnostic quality and efficiency of the radiology imaging services they receive. Patients see it in the timeliness of the imaging procedures as part of their treatments. CMIOs and executives, responsible for the efficiency, quality and overall business health of a diagnostic service, define it through clinical outcomes and productivity, reduced turnaround times and cost. IT staff is balancing these needs with accessibility, high availability and compliance with privacy and data security policies. With so many different interpretations, how does a health care enterprise define “the value of imaging?” And what will the future hold for “value” in 2017?

All of these perspectives help to define “imaging value,” but the focus is always getting the right data to the right people at the right time. Having all of the patient’s images from previous exams, as well as having the complete medical record available to the radiologist, significantly helps radiologists maximize their value when interpreting images. Likewise, sharing everything from the results of the interpretation (the diagnostic report, structured findings and key images) helps radiologists to maximize their value to the broader care team. As a result of the interpretation, the diagnostic report and associated key images must be made available to other care team members, typically in a plat­form outside of PACS where sharing data remains a challenge. However, the broader care team does not use the PACS system, which is where the radiologist completes his/her work, so the information needs to be distributed to others. This can only be accomplished via enhanced collaboration tools as well as interoperability between the PACS and the information systems.

Best practices for image exchange and sharing of information from medical image interpretations exist, but departments must demand technical platforms where interoperability is built-in by design rather than being an afterthought. The technical, clinical and business experts in health care organizations now understand and agree that true interoperability requires the exchange of image-related data that are relevant and contextual. As such, a solid contextual and semantic interoperability is the first and most fundamental requirement to deliver the value of imaging today.

Vendor neutral archives (VNA) is one way to create this data exchange and improve clinical productivity. Initially, it was developed to connect siloed departments and manage image storage and distribution throughout the hospital. This creates cost savings, IT ef­ficiency and improves patient outcomes by making relevant data accessible. VNAs need to continue pioneering integration progress with other patient information systems, such as EHRs, EMRs and personal health records.

This evolution will greatly assist the development of tailored treatment plans for each patient, and thus help radiologists track to­ward value in the new year.

Advances in imaging and image-guided surgery open a completely new area in re­placing traditional surgeries with minimally invasive procedures (such as TAVI) that drastically reduce patient risk and improve accessibility to care. This is yet another area where radiologists can provide value through precision imaging measurement. This strategy helps radiology align closer with the patient and provide better coordinated care.

Despite the ever-changing health care landscape, the future of radiology on the 2017 horizon is bright. Radiologists will continue to play an important role in the jour­ney to value-based care from improving patient outcomes to cost-efficient techniques. Through the adoption of innovative technologies and solutions, radiology departments will not only continue to make an impact, but will drastically improve overall quality of care.

To learn more about the pillars that support enterprise imaging, download Beyond Imaging: Key Components for a Holistic Enterprise Imaging Strategy.

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