Workflow Engines: The Right Tools to Complement Diagnostic Imaging Systems


How radiology workflow engines complement diagnostic imaging systems.When it comes to doing a job well, the right tool can make all the difference. Researchers, including Dr. Bradley Erickson at Mayo Clinic, suggest that PACS and RIS are not sufficient for the entire job. At last year’s RSNA conference, Erickson remarked that too many healthcare professionals are using databases for workflow, which begs the question, why aren’t we using workflow engines for workflow? “Use the right tool. Don’t use a hammer to pound in a screw,” he said.

Erickson points out that as soon as radiology workflow becomes anything other than linear, the deficiencies of a PACS or RIS begin to show. In other words, only when a patient order comes in and the exam is simply scheduled, completed, and interpreted is the radiology workflow provided by a PACS or RIS sufficient. Today’s radiology departments rarely function along those lines.

In fact, rules-based routing is one of the main benefits of a radiology workflow engine. For example, Erickson says, you can write a rule that takes post-CAD images and aligns them with the original image and shows the difference in enhancements. Similarly, you can set parameters to ensure that images needing to go to the 3D lab are transferred automatically, rather than relying on the busy CT tech.

Erickson notes that some organizations will need to standardize on terms before they can realize the full benefits of a workflow engine, allowing processes to be compared within or across institutions. He explained that Mayo found significant sequencing variations among different facilities that weren’t apparent until an organization-wide workflow lexicon was implemented.

Nor is the potential of a sophisticated radiology workflow engine limited to rules and routing. First, it allows users to see a graphic representation of their radiology workflow, enabling them to quickly see bottlenecks and routing errors. “Most people can understand a flow diagram,” Erickson told ImagingBiz. “Most people probably could not understand a SQL query that accomplishes the same thing.”

Second, the automation provided by these applications changes the way managers view and document processes, Erickson notes. The data collected allows department heads to thoughtfully update processes based on up-to-date workflow measurements.

This, in turn, leads to the type of productivity and agility gains so critical to compete in today’s value-based care environment.

When evaluating radiology workflow solutions for your organization, look for a flexible rules engine that not only allows you to define your own radiology workflow and business rules across your enterprise, but also consolidates interpretation and quality tasks.

For more information on intelligent, vendor-neutral workflow solutions, discover McKesson Conserus™, enterprise-level diagnostic imaging solutions for your healthcare organization.

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