In healthcare organizations, picture archiving communication systems, or PACS, have been the foundation of medical imaging. However, as the digital transformation of healthcare and the world progresses, PACS are being phased out in favor of vendor neutral archives (VNAs).
A VNA stores medical imaging in a standard format making clinical multimedia and data universally accessible across systems, regardless of vendor.
The benefit of a VNA is that it can break down data silos and barriers between healthcare technology systems. PACS are often vendor specific which creates compatibility issues that prevent systems from interfacing. However, a VNA is vendor “neutral” which helps to enable easier flow of imaging information between departments and healthcare providers..
Whether you have an existing VNA in your healthcare delivery organization (HDO) or if you’re exploring a VNA implementation, these tips will help you optimize the process.
High Departmental Availability
Over the last decades the medical imaging landscape has expanded significantly. Now almost every medical department from women’s health to dermatology rely on medical imaging in some way. VNAs that achieve the most impact are those that can serve every department. To be fully optimized, a VNA should enable the entire healthcare delivery organization to store and manage imaging data. Often, only radiology departments are able to leverage a VNA which limits its full potential.
When assessing a VNA, clarify exactly how it distributes across an organization. A VNA should be embedded within each department and the specialists within those departments should be trained and empowered to use it. If your HDO has a VNA but limited departmental scope, we would recommend you formulate a department-by-department integration plan. If your organization is still exploring a VNA, define in your imaging strategy each department that should be included in the VNA implementation for full availability.
Another aspect of the fully-optimized VNA is integration with other systems like the EMR. The EMR or electronic medical record is the new standard in today’s medical care. This digital record of all patient data including medical imaging is instrumental in patient care. When an EMR is complete with the latest information and results, doctors have the context they need to deliver informed patient care.
VNAs can function as image repositories for EMRs with the most current patient visit data and other pertinent information included. Ensuring a connection between a VNA and the EMR will offer immediate benefits for an organization such as increased access to patient images and data. Determine if the systems are integrated and if not, take action to connect them. Having patient records and imaging always up to date, automatically can impact the entire organization. When enterprise image management goes beyond PACS by using a VNA, resources like radiologists can dedicate effort to reading workflows and acquisition.
Advanced Image Sharing
A fully-optimized VNA should enable image viewing access, regardless of origin. Real-time access to data is essential to timely and informed patient care. In today’s medical model, patients are seen at several facilities, which means medical images are created at disparate locations. While current imaging systems offer basic image sharing capabilities, they are often not as advanced as they should be. Some images are still stored solely on physical media like CD/DVDs which makes it time-consuming and manual to transfer and upload media to a new system. A VNA should automate and unify the process of accessing outside medical media. To enhance your current VNA, focus on clinician viewing. Can clinicians compare priors with current images? Can secure links be sent via email? Also focus on report conversion: DICOM Structured Reports, HL7 ORU, HL7 CDA. A VNA should seamlessly provide integrated launch from EMR, physician portal or patient portal.
If your existing VNA does not have the advanced image sharing functionality discussed, connect with your system vendor and administrator. Create a list of enhancements that would improve your workflows. With a clear list of requirements you can create a roadmap to a cutting-edge VNA implementation.
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