5 Ways Radiology Can Support an Enterprise Imaging Initiative

2017-05-23
 

As health systems look to provide more value in patient care while controlling costs, the shift to enterprise imaging has become a top priority. Because it expands communication and collaboration across the health system, enterprise imaging can directly contribute to value-based care.

It takes participation from stakeholders across the health system to successfully manage an enterprise imaging transition. But radiology departments should be leading the way. Your department has invaluable experience dealing with imaging, workflow, and managing imaging data once it’s captured.

Radiologists should be consultants and advocates throughout an enterprise imaging transition, leading the charge and lending their expert opinions. Here are five ways your department can trailblaze for the rest of your health system.

1. Promote a Common Image Storage Platform

Enterprise imaging starts with a single “source of truth” for image storage. Your PACS may be able to expand to interface with points of capture in other –ologies and become an integral part of your enterprise imaging vision. It’s important to start the conversation and explore the feasibility of creating a common storage platform. Having a common storage platform also lends itself to a common enterprise viewing strategy, which is beneficial not just for clinicians inside the hospital, but is attractive to referring physicians as well.

2. Establish & Promote Metadata Standards

There are industry-wide standards for imaging metadata. Individual radiology departments tend to have their own set of guidelines in addition to — and sometimes modifying — these standards. So it’s important to first get your own department on board with strictly-defined vocabulary for labeling body parts, procedures, and sources, among others.

Once you have fully clarified standards in your department, share them with the rest of the organization. As more departments add images to the EMR, it’s vital to develop this shared lexicon and will make for a much easier transition when an enterprise imaging strategy is put in place. 

3. Work to Standardize Workflows

Radiology workflow tends to be order-based: The physician requests a scan, and that order serves as the point of communication between radiologist and physician. Other departments aren’t as cut-and-dried. For example, a dermatologist could photograph a mole without an order from another physician. That image would still need to be placed in the EMR, though it lacks an order to reference.

Some health systems are shifting to encounter-based workflows to deal with this discrepancy. Radiology should participate in the discussion on creating workflows that work across the health system in all the -ologies, and be open to change their existing workflow to allow an enterprise imaging strategy to be most successful.

4. Participate in IT Purchasing Decisions

Ideally, your IT decision makers will invite you to the table when discussing new purchases. Imaging makes up a sizable portion of the data that flows through a health system, so it makes sense to involve radiology in choosing the IT infrastructure that will support enterprise imaging.

If your invitation to participate in the decision gets “lost in the mail,” however, it’s important to be proactive and invite yourself to the table. Draw on your department’s experience with your current solution to inform decision-making. Most importantly, advocate for interoperability. Make sure the proposed solutions will promote communication rather than hindering it.

5. Expand Your Informatics Role

In an enterprise imaging paradigm, radiologists are no longer the gatekeepers for imaging. However, simply controlling access to images shouldn’t be your department’s chief function. The truly vital and valuable role radiology plays is in imaging informatics — interpreting images, placing them within context of care, advising on diagnosis, further screening, and treatment.

It’s important to prepare your department to relinquish total control of the flow of information. Instead, focus on refining and expanding your role as the physician’s physician: the expert advisor that provides indispensable consultation.

Be an Enterprise Imaging Leader

Enterprise imaging is all about expanding imaging beyond the radiology department throughout the health system. But radiology’s role does not diminish; it expands. You can use your department’s expertise to help kickstart your system’s transition, and take a leadership role throughout. With radiology to light the way, your health system can move towards a more interoperable, more communicative imaging approach that adds value and contributes to better patient outcomes.

Learn more about enterprise imaging in our latest eBook, Beyond Imaging: Key Components for a Holistic Enterprise Imaging Strategy.

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