The Value of Data: How interoperability, data sharing and value-based care are shaping diagnostic imaging in healthcare


Healthcare Data in UseEditor’s Note: This article recently ran in Executive Insight magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Healthcare is in the midst of a shift – a shift toward interoperability, data sharing and value-based care. For McKesson’s Imaging & Workflow Solutions (IWS) business, these components are part of the company’s framework.

Since its inception in 1833, McKesson has played a pivotal role in the nation’s healthcare landscape. And with their enterprise diagnostic imaging solution sets, McKesson has expanded its role to become a leader in diagnostic imaging for radiology and cardiology with one-fourth of U.S. hospitals using their imaging software and services. McKesson IWS understands the needs of healthcare leaders, in particular chief information officers (CIOs) who are responsible for data gathering and effective data exchange.

In addition to radiology and cardiology, McKesson is a strong player on the enterprise imaging level. McKesson’s enterprise imaging solutions not only work McKesson-to-McKesson but also work with other vendor solutions. This strategic approach allows healthcare systems to acquire and consolidate facilities without the expense of replacing an existing picture archiving and communication solution (PACS). Furthermore, this change helps improve efficiencies, ensures the relevant data is accessible at the right time, by the right care professional and leverages both technical and professional resources within a healthcare system.

Data Sharing and Interoperability

Radiology and cardiology have been the key departments related to diagnostic imaging. For this reason, McKesson IWS has understood and promoted data sharing. McKesson IWS is committed to opening data in their system so it can be consumed by others and vice versa. “We’ve never seen diagnostic imaging as an island of information inside the hospital,” says Tomer Levy, general manager, workflow and infrastructure solutions, at McKesson. This thought has been the company’s mantra as an IT vendor, but now others must join the mission because information exchange is important to all key IT players.

Data sharing often presents one problem – filtering data. The electronic health record (EHR) offers copious amount of information. If this information was sent to the physician without discretion, it would become meaningless data. The goal is to filter through the data in an intelligent way, which is where McKesson IWS’ clinical expertise comes into play. “When we know what procedure is being displayed, we know what information would be relevant for a particular procedure,” Levy says. “We are working on creating smart filters and displays for physicians in the context of a specific procedure.”

Another important aspect of diagnostic imaging is interoperability, which provides another dimension to workflow. When systems exchange data and interpret shared data in a seamless way, it establishes a single and cohesive workflow for the providers and patients.

Volume to Value

“With the shift from volume to value, healthcare systems face higher demands for quality and the need to improve workflow,” says Levy. “A large amount of data is collected as part of diagnostic imaging so it is important to capture this data and integrate it into the patient’s EHR.”

“Traditionally, radiologists worked independently from the physician-patient workflow. In the past, radiologists would read the image, send their report and move on to the next image. Today, radiologists are part of the workflow process – their reports are included in the EHR, and often, they serve as a consultant to the referring physician,” explains Levy. “Once this data is in the system, physicians and staff can query, analyze and retrieve statistical information from this data – a process that improves efficiencies, streamlines workflow and saves money. Additionally, it is about delivering the right image at the right time at the point of care,” explains Levy. “Outside departments and private clinics must be able to easily access images and reports from the EHR.”

As healthcare systems move toward a value-based model, healthcare organizations must be cognizant of regulations and requirements. “Today, we’re seeing an emergence of quality processes to be implemented in healthcare organizations as a response to the joint commission and accreditations,” says Levy.

“In the future, there will be more requirements added by regulating bodies. Requirements and demands for higher quality will continue to grow. Healthcare systems will need the tools to measure, control and manage different workflows. Without IT systems [the backbone of data collection] to do this, it is impossible. If systems cannot measure the time it takes to perform a process, they cannot control the workflow and standards in an effective way,” he explains. “Ultimately, this is the critical point of value-based care because it depends on data and results of analysis.”

Industry Standards

McKesson IWS believes strongly in industry standards. “We believe [industry standards] are critical,” explains Levy. “Without standards, it makes the integration data effort error prone. If there are no standards in place, sharing clinical data could lead to patient error. Standards allow vendors like McKesson and their partners to test interfaces in their laboratories and provide solutions that can be used in different facilities without going through long and expensive customization processes.”

In terms of imaging, adopting universal standards help keep data discreet. McKesson IWS also promotes “bi-directional data sharing,” which means data flows both ways. “We believe that it’s our responsibility to share the data that we capture but also to pull data in and provide that data at the point of care in a smart way,” says Levy. “For instance, it is not only about sending data to a single repository like the EHR, but it is also about pulling data to the point of care via the EHR.”

There’s also another benefit of adopting standards – improving competitiveness in the marketplace, which allows healthcare organizations to choose a best-of-breed IT solution and easily plug different systems together. And a standards-based environment helps organizations reduce costs by diminishing the need to replace older systems. Eventually, standards produce better solutions – a benefit to providers.

Value of McKesson Imaging & Workflow Solutions

Although, there are many vendor neutral archive solutions, McKesson understands the medical space from many vantage points. The company understands the specifics of radiology and cardiology workflow intimately. In addition, McKesson knows what physicians want to see – the right data at the right time. The company relies on a broad network of customers and consultants. And they aren’t afraid to ask questions like, “what is the exact information you are looking for in a solution?”

For instance, in discussions about workflow implementation, there’s a wide network of customers who have a specific idea of what type of workflow they are trying to achieve. McKesson IWS wants to know the challenges they face so they can develop better solutions. “We rely on our resources and knowledge in developing those smart solutions,” says Levy. “We believe we have the advantage there. We are also relying on our track record of developing high-quality systems and medical devices, and we believe this adds a lot of value.”

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