Simplifying the Process of Integrating Medical Imaging Across the Enterprise


Radiologist Discussing Enterprise Medical Imaging Strategy

Enterprise medical imaging is being incorporated into more healthcare organizations which opens the door for healthcare IT professionals to play a strategic role in the enterprise medical imaging process. Smart players will take care to avoid a few pitfalls, according to Paul J. Chang, MD, vice chairman of radiology informatics at University of Chicago School of Medicine.

Enterprise medical imaging management is multifaceted, yet corporate IT departments want to simplify the process, Chang explained during an educational session at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) 2013 meeting. Warning attendees against oversimplification, he then outlined tactics for integrating enterprise medical imaging into the archive. His commentary was reported on recently in Health Imaging.

Enterprise Medical Imaging Workflow Challenges

Emphasizing the challenges related to disparate workflows throughout the enterprise medical imaging environment, Chang observed, “Workflow is frequently ignored. Getting rid of film is the easy part of image management. Optimal workflow is hard. Every silo has an associated workflow. It is not one size fits all.”

Chang stressed that in enterprise medical imaging, analytics and business planning should not be ignored. Since healthcare organizations must demonstrate value in all endeavors, analytics are critical since it provides the platform for showing value. According to Chang, radiology lags far behind other businesses in the adoption of business intelligence analytics (BIA), including the utilization of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as dashboards and scorecards. A KPI helps measure if you’re improving your processes, efficiencies and adding value to the product or service you provide.

Budgeting Enterprise Medical Imaging

“Radiology is not a charity,” Chang said in reference to business planning. Enterprise medical imaging departments, with an eye on digital enterprise medical imaging management, need to demonstrate a budget for operations, rather than expecting ongoing support from medical imaging informatics.

Chang proposed asking fundamental questions in order to guide an enterprise medical imaging management project:

  • What kind of multimedia object does the request entail?
  • If it is DICOM, what is the RIS equivalent?
  • How will the image will be stored and used?

It’s All About Storage

Selecting the strategy for non-DICOM image storage is an important decision, explained Chang, which means adding an independent archive and database or adding a DICOM wrapper. He suggested bypassing the independent archive model as linkage among PACS is essential.

Regarding the RIS equivalent Chang said, “You need to know what image the image is and to whom it belongs.” Whenever possible, leverage the existing RIS. If specialists balk at using a radiology system, he suggested dubbing it the enterprise medical imaging management system.

A final consideration is storage persistence. The goal, explained Chang, is an agnostic enterprise medical imaging archive, not a proliferation of mini PACS. However, to support ‘ologies with a workflow solution, the enterprise medical imaging archive can be augmented with a persistent cache that retains image datasets for one year.

What are the challenges your organization faces when attempting to incorporate enterprise medical imaging processes?

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