Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Claudette Lew on the ImagingBiz website and is republished here with permission.
When Dane’lle Southern was approached by Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Imaging Centers’ (SDMI) CIO to take on the role of PACS administrator for the company, she initially declined, and remembers thinking she couldn’t possibly be a good fit for the position. The CIO thought differently, and saw that her experience as an imaging technologist could only make a PACS administrator stronger. Having successfully completed nearly two years as PACS administrator, Southern revisits her experience to share how SDMI has best utilized her skills to bridge the gap between clinical and IT staff.
Southern has been with SDMI for 12 of its 27 years, joining the company back when she was completing her education as an ultrasound technologist. The company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and comprises six imaging centers in the Las Vegas area with intentions to open a seventh in 2015, and employs 350 staff.
A successful and growing family business, SDI was founded by Dr. Leon Steinberg, who was later joined by his son, Dr. David Steinberg, and colleague, Dr. Mark Winkler. Strictly referral based, SDMI’s six imaging centers operate without any hospital affiliations and need to consistently provide high quality imaging services and reporting to referring physicians in order to sustain and grow the patient base.
A clinical liaison
“Fortunately, I was already very familiar with the front end of our PACS,” Southern said. “The more difficult challenge I faced was learning the IT commands and workarounds.”
Southern was already a “super-user” on SDMI’s McKesson’s diagnostic imaging solution. In her new position, she was able to complete much of her training on the job and she also attended a McKesson training designed for PACS administrators.
“I did go to Vancouver to complete the architecture training with McKesson. It was especially helpful as I took on my new responsibilities of PACS administrator,” she added.
The other success factor Southern believes helped her as PACS administrator is her clinical background. As she puts it, she is able to speak both languages, the IT language and the clinical language.
“When someone calls me with a problem, most times I’ve done the same thing myself and can relate to them. As PACS administrator, I also know how that problem translates over to the IT side. Because I understand exactly what the problem is, I can then do what I need to on the IT side and implement a solution.”
In addition to managing workflow issues and putting out fires when necessary, Southern spends a good amount of time handling project management, implementations, and staff training.
“I need to know everything about product implementations and need to be able to conduct implementation trainings for our technical and clinical staff.”
No easy road
Southern said the road to successful PACS administration was not without significant challenges.
“For me personally,” Southern said, “the technical side of my job has been most challenging, but I have to say, McKesson’s technical support team has helped me immensely. I called them frequently in the beginning. They were great about teaching me and expanding my skill level, not just solving the problem I was experiencing at that moment,” she added.
A second challenge according to Southern is continually training staff to use the PACS most effectively. Over time, Southern has developed a comprehensive training program for SDMI’s 23 radiologists and clinical staff, or “super users”.
“I am just about to conduct another super-user training,” said Southern, “for all of our new techs and as a refresher for our experienced users. The rationale behind super-user training is to train them on issues and solutions they can attend to themselves, without having to escalate to the PACS administrator. Because of the number of different modalities and imaging centers we operate, we require 40 super-users. It’s critical that when I learn something new, I bring that information to the group of super-users to train them and get them to use the product more efficiently, so they, in turn, can be a greater resource for the clinicians. The McKesson Radiology™ interface is very user-friendly and it makes sense to our staff. It is customizable to our needs, so we can maximize our operational efficiency.”
Exciting changes in the near future
Southern told ImagingBiz that in addition to a seventh imaging center in 2015, SDMI will also be installing tomosynthesis units for breast cancer screening at all locations, available to all patients. Digital Breast Tomosynthesis has recently been highlighted as an additional effective screening tool available in the detection of breast cancer.
“Rather than using a selection protocol, or charging an additional fee for breast tomosynthesis,” Southern reported, “we will offer it to everyone who is having a breast cancer screening. Dr. Steinberg wanted to make it available for ALL patients. It was the same philosophy when we transitioned from film to digital imaging. He believed it was the better option for all studies.”
With the increase in breast cancer screenings due to the availability of tomosynthesis for all patients, in addition to the overall increase in the number of insured individuals in the US under the new health care law, Southern anticipates that patient volumes at SDMI will continue to grow in 2015. In addition, the local market is very competitive, Southern notes, and it’s not very common for patients to go to the hospital for outpatient radiology needs, which drives increased utilization at outpatient imaging centers. SDMI will open a seventh imaging center in 2015 to manage the anticipated increase in patient volume. McKesson’s diagnostic imaging solutions will continue to support SDMI throughout this period of growth.
Supporting technology and best practices
Southern says the combination of her clinical experience in the PACS administrator role helps to open up communications between clinical and IT staff. The ease of use and efficiency of their McKesson diagnostic imaging solution will certainly help SDMI manage the anticipated increase in patient volumes and overall growth of the business, not to mention make her job run more smoothly.
“The system is incredibly nimble, and it allows our radiologists the flexibility to read a study from anywhere. Our radiologists love this kind of freedom and ability to consult with one another so easily. Our PACS enables our entire practice to run more efficiently.”
As PACS administrator, Southern has every confidence in their PACS, and she is also making a great case for PACS administrators to be clinically experienced.