HIMSS-SIIM Meetup: Enterprise imaging on an inter-organizational roll

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 - Alexander J. Towbin, MD
Alexander J. Towbin, MD, Director of Radiology Informatics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Source: cincinnatichildrens.org

The HIMSS-SIIM Enterprise Imaging Workgroup already had a head of steam to build on when its leaders, members and potential new participants held a “meetup” on March 2 at the airy, sunlit HIMSS Spot during HIMSS16 in Las Vegas.

The workgroup had formed a year and a half earlier, the fruit of a discussion between, among other thought leaders, HIMSS informatics VP Joyce Sensmeier and, representing SIIM, Louis Lannum, director of enterprise imaging at the Cleveland Clinic, and James Whitfill, MD, chief medical officer of Scottsdale Health Partners.

The March 2 meetup brought together the workgroup’s growing membership, now comprised of several dozen enterprise imaging experts whose ranks include radiologists, cardiologists, health IT managers and executives, certified imaging informatics professionals, imaging vendors and others.

The event’s pro-enterprise imaging thrust was concisely characterized by participant Alexander Towbin, MD, director of radiology informatics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“I want to be able to see all the available images because it helps me take better care of patients,” Towbin told imagingBiz in a post-meetup interview. “When I can see the rash that a patient has, it’s going to make me think of findings in the lung a little bit differently. It may make me, a radiologist, think about lupus when I otherwise wouldn’t have.”

“Eighteen months in, it’s very exciting to see the energy and the activity of this group,” Sensmeier added in a separate interview. “People are putting their thoughts and ideas to paper with some really good deliverables that are going to be coming out.”

Aiming high and wide

The deliverables to which Sensmeier refers are at least five white papers in the works from three subgroups that broke out with fresh action items from the meetup.

One subgroup is focusing on defining enterprise imaging. One is homing in on image exchange and sharing. And one is working on identifying best practices around image-acquisition workflow, governance and standards.  

The white papers are to be published, possibly as soon as this summer, in SIIM’s Journal of Digital Imaging. The collective work also may be disseminated via other journals, outlets and presentation venues, the goal being to reach beyond the memberships of SIIM and HIMSS.

Towbin, who is heading up the workflow subgroup and has a hand in drafting its white papers, says workflow is close to his heart because, as a longtime enterprise-imaging evangelist, he knows a complicated workflow is an unfollowed workflow.

“A radiologist lives in the PACS,” he says. “For other specialists, their primary home is the EMR. Instead of making someone log into a different system and do a million other steps, the workflow should be launching through the user’s [familiar interface]. I want to work on building or encouraging workflows that facilitate ease of use.”

“All of this is kind of new territory, beginning with defining ‘enterprise imaging,’” says Sensmeier. “How do we go about sharing images that now are being captured throughout the organization? How do we not only share them within our own organizations that have a need to know, and with patients themselves? What standards should we be using for that?”

Such were the broad-based questions that led to the formation of the HIMSS-SIIM Enterprise Imaging Workgroup, she says, adding that the same questions were in evidence as the three subgroups and five white papers—both of which may grow in number—have taken shape.

“A lot of work is going into getting those white papers published,” Sensmeier says. “The next wave is going to be looking at governance as well as what would be a business model moving forward for enterprise imaging. The third thing will be advancing the value proposition by advocating for and demonstrating the value of enterprise imaging [to provider organizations].” 

Radiology’s role reconsidered

Towbin sees opportunities to turn the many thought exercises underway right now into actionable to-do items in the weeks and months ahead.

For one thing, he says, radiology and cardiology need to speed up the process of shedding their image as the chief keepers of all things imaging.

Further, he says, new enterprise-level jobs are likely to open up, and at every level from desktop support to the C-suite. (Sensmeier seconded that prediction.)

“Just as it doesn’t make sense for radiology and cardiology to be the ones doing all the work in the SIIM-HIMSS workgroups and setting