The imaging and data needs of healthcare organizations are ever-changing, as new technology and mandates shape the future of care.
Telemedicine is becoming a standard care option. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have detailed requirements and deadlines for interoperability. Patients may want more and easier access to their medical data at any time, from the device of their choice.
From data sharing to interoperability, the traditional picture and archiving communication system (PACS) faces challenges. Organizations who are looking to replace or change their PACS have an opportunity to expand their capabilities with new technology. Rather than replacing PACS with PACS, it’s time to look at the value that enterprise imaging delivers.
With the right enterprise imaging solution, organizations can move closer to preparing themselves for the future of healthcare – from sharing image data with patients to creating a learning health system.
Related Article: Enterprise Imaging PACS Evolution
Enterprise imaging vs. PACS systems
A key difference between enterprise imaging (EI) and PACS is EI’s ability to serve the imaging and data-sharing needs of the entire enterprise, rather than a single department.
Typically, healthcare organizations have different PACS systems for different uses. Radiology, cardiology and other departments have specialized solutions that don’t easily talk to each other. This can lead to a number of challenges, including:
- Lack of access to all images: This can lead to unnecessary repeat exams and delays in treatment while waiting for images.
- Siloes of imaging data: It can be difficult to combine images in one viewer for comparisons across medical specialties, and limits the ability to analyze clinical and performance data as a whole.
- Lack of interoperability: Providers may not see a complete health record because images are spread across disparate and proprietary systems, often owned by different organizations.
- Inability to easily exchange images: Unnecessary exams may be repeated, and workflows can be inefficient as staff import images from DVDs.
- Inability to manage images acquired at the point of care: It can be difficult to associate point-of-care images to patient records when there isn’t an exam order, which can mean gaps in an EHR and may result in lost revenue when non-DICOM imaging procedures acquired at the point of care are not billed.
These challenges ultimately limit a provider’s ability to see a long-term view of a patient’s health record.
In contrast, vendor-agnostic EI solutions do not have these limits. Because EI can be used to view images that were captured by different departments, it can serve as the single solution for a healthcare organization. Data can be shared and accessed through a common viewing platform, regardless of source, and more easily integrated into the patient’s health record.
Related article: Read our article about Gartner’s report on imaging content management for more information about enterprise imaging strategies and challenges
How EI supports patient access to medical data
Vendor-agnostic EI solutions have the ability to access, view and share data across different, proprietary systems. This traditionally takes place in a healthcare setting; however, new trends and demands are leading to new applications.
As part of their final rule on interoperability, the ONC and CMS outlined expectations and mandates for healthcare organizations related to giving an individual access to their data within their electronic health record (EHR).
Evolving toward a learning health system with EI
Creating learning health systems (LHS) is one of the ONC’s goals of interoperability. Part of the LHS vision is making sure providers have seamless, secure access and use of health information from various sources.
Enterprise imaging alleviates this pain point because medical imaging data can be easily accessed, viewed and shared among departments. It also can simplify sending, sharing and receiving images from outside organizations.
This ultimately contributes to building a comprehensive EHR for the patient, so all providers involved in a person’s care have access to the same information.
If a radiological scan takes place at a hospital, and a point-of-care ultrasound takes place at a physician’s office, this image data can be accessed by both patient and provider through the electronic health record. This is a critical part of a learning health system and a typical limitation of PACS solutions, where data remains in departmental silos and is inaccessible to patients.
Preparing for the future of health care with enterprise imaging
When weighing the benefits of PACS vs. enterprise imaging, it’s also essential to think about how a solution will change along with your organization and technology. This idea of preparing for the future is an additional area where enterprise imaging can excel compared to traditional PACS solutions.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing in medical imaging, and with that comes the need to process, manage and store large amounts of data. Enterprise imaging may be equipped to handle the data loads required to take advantage of AI and its possibilities in supporting diagnoses and workflows. It can be scaled across an enterprise, with additional capacity added when needed. PACS requires adding more capacity within its existing storage.
Data migration and image sharing after mergers and acquisitions are potential opportunities where vendor-agnostic EI can support operations. As a single entity, it’s important that care teams have access to historical patient data, including images. This can be difficult at best when two merged systems use different PACS. Many EI solutions can transform this PACS data so it’s accessible across an enterprise, even when the source data is in a different standard.
Interoperability is another area where enterprise imaging typically outperforms PACS when planning for the future. EI solutions can make it easier to seamlessly share information with other departments and outside organizations, which is central to the ONC’s interoperability mandate. Images can also be integrated in a patient’s electronic health record, giving others on their care team a comprehensive view of their health and preventing delays in treatment that may arise with more manual data sharing.
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