Image-Enabled EMRs: The Next Wave of Driving Efficiencies in the Health System
By Bill Stoval, VP & GM of Enterprise Imaging, GE Healthcare IT
Every day new headlines announce the continued seismic shifts that the healthcare industry is going through. From the digital revolution happening globally to paradigm shifts in regions like the U.S. as we go from a fee-for-service model to one that is based in value—the only constant in healthcare is change.
More than 15 years ago, the industry was focused on digitization, and simply getting paper records into digital format. And while there are many obvious benefits around this effort, one of the aftermaths was that, as an industry, we created digital silos of information. We built a car, but we forgot to make sure that different parts of the car were able to communicate with each other. And we forgot to put in the dashboard to know how fast we’re going, or how many miles we’ve traveled.
Today, health organizations are building that dashboard, with the help of technology companies. These organizations are connecting data and work streams within multiple locations so they can find actionable insights that help improve the health of patients and their businesses.
But of course, there are hurdles to overcome when creating architecture that connects these different types, sources and silos of data. The information often comes from multiple locations and systems—whether within the organization or from other health systems—which can often lead to complications.
To add an additional hurdle, we’ve seen an increase in consolidation among healthcare organizations due to mergers and acquisitions over the past couple years, and with that comes the merging of even more IT systems, data sources and complexity.
Within all this transformation, many CIOs of health systems and hospitals understand that they must create an architecture that helps facilitates efficiencies, eliminates waste, taps into the massive amounts of new data and keeps patient safety at the center of it all.
"Healthcare administrators can centralize and consolidate the images into one viewer, regardless of the vendor"
One of the first actions that many CIOs took to address this broader opportunity was rolling out electronic medical records. With that initiative in the rear view mirror of most organizations, health executives are now looking at the next big opportunity: driving optimization by bringing together and streamlining storage and systems.
An important but maybe overlooked area where health organizations can help eliminate waste and better coordinate care is through a consolidated view of imaging and imaging IT systems across their enterprise. However, to do this, an organization needs to establish the proper architecture.
Imagine all the images that exist within one health system. The organization captures each patient’s x-rays, CT scans and lab reports. Additionally, there are thousands of other images captured and shared in areas like wound care, plastic surgery or dermatology.
The challenge is how to take this siloed information from different departments and integrate the data so clinicians have the right information at the right time.
Today’s healthcare CIO can play a critical role in connecting these pockets of images into a holistic strategy. He or she can help orchestrate how their patient, supplies and materials comes together, and make it so clinicians can view, analyze and manage a full view of the patient record.
Consolidate and Centralize your Image Storage
A clinician needs the ability to access a patient’s prior medical records—whether from different departments in the organizations or different health systems—to provide their best patient care. One foundational capability within an imaging architecture is to have a storage system that provides one holistic view of the patient across your whole enterprise, from radiology and cardiology to mammography and advanced visualization.
Healthcare administrators can centralize and consolidate the images into one viewer, regardless of the vendor. Technology today allows for cross-vendor solutions, so while there are multiple systems running under the hood, it can provides one seamless and centralized viewing system for healthcare providers.
Having a viewer that can seamlessly display images from multiple systems can be beneficial in several ways:
• Provides clinicians with access to the full patient record.
• Creates cost savings through operational efficiencies.
• Reduces potentially unnecessary imaging by providing a holistic patient history.
• Consolidate storage to potentially generate millions of dollars savings.
Provide Easy Access to Images
The mobile device industry taught us that data is most effective when you can tap into it regardless of your location. The same is true for medical data.
Yet, today we still access medical images in a variety of ways: sometimes on a CD, other times on a PDF or web-browser, or even through the cloud. To help access multiple forms of image data seamlessly, health administrations should implement a standards-based approach to access and capture those files.
Moving forward, healthcare organizations won’t rely on burning discs. Instead they will likely have a cloud infrastructure in place that allows clinicians to access information wherever they are, with whatever device or software they are using. Have a cloud infrastructure can help improve healthcare delivery and health administration, while keeping information safe.
Share Medical Data Across Systems
An imaging architecture should also consider how images are shared outside of their organization. Clinicians often can collaborate with other physicians for virtual consults or to access expertise outside of the organization. Having an infrastructure and system in place to share images can help ensure you are sharing patient images in a safe and efficient manner.
Now that a majority of health organizations have implemented EMRs, it is important to have a system in place that allows for an image-enabled EMR. To demonstrate Meaningful Use Stage Two, one measurement is that 10 percent of all scans and tests ordered by an eligible professional (EP) that result in an image will need to be accessible from an EMR.
Ensuring that you have the right architecture in place can not only help a healthcare organization meet regulatory requirements, but it can also be the foundation for an enterprise-wide system that helps drive efficiencies, improve collaboration and help your organization to deliver better patient care.