Image and Information Management at RSNA 06: Workflow, Integration and Beyond

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The message at McCormick Place was loud and clear at RSNA this year. PACS has overcome basic workflow and integration challenges. The latest vendor offerings up the ante and promise improved workflow and deeper integrations. Many new systems incorporate the next level of advanced visualization tools, enabling radiologists to interpret 3D studies and remain at a single workstation, which represents a workflow plus. Advanced visualization applications weren’t the only new offerings. Digital mammography, enterprise solutions and the small hospital/imaging center market also grabbed their fair share of the spotlight. Integrated RIS offerings and advanced workflow management solutions rounded out the show floor.
The DMIST results are out and shown digital mammography’s superior role in diagnosing breast cancer in women with dense breasts, and the first CR mammography system is on the market. Digital mammography has turned the corner, and sales are skyrocketing. A number of PACS vendors aim to simplify the intricate challenges of storing and recalling digital mammography images with new systems geared to the specific needs of the mammography site. Embedded CAD and multi-modality reading features promise to streamline digital mammography interpretation and simplify breast imaging.
Vendors built on last year’s enterprise momentum and unveiled more systems targeted to the enterprise market. In fact, several moved beyond the walls of radiology and cardiology and presented solutions to help manage non-DICOM images generated by other specialties like pathology and dermatology. New communication tools aim to enhance patient safety and warn users of discrepancies specifically between radiology and busy ER departments. Other vendors showed new solutions targeted to the referring physician market, intending to simplify image delivery and PACS utility.
PACS has penetrated the majority of large and mid-sized hospitals, but many smaller sites, imaging centers and specialty practices are eying digital solutions. Vendors displayed a host of systems scaled to the smaller practices. Offerings included quite a few mini-PACS and ASP solutions.
RIS vendors touted tighter PACS integration and improved workflow tools. At the same time vendors unveiled advanced workflow solutions, designed minimize disruptions to radiologists, streamline communication and mine data to facilitate optimization of staff and modality resources.
RSNA 2006 was a great show. PACS proved its strength and maturity, and vendors managed to show something for everyone. For more highlights and an insider’s look behind the trends, check out the January 2007 issue of Health Imaging & IT magazine.

Absolute Medical Software Systems, Inc. introduced a comprehensive RIS solution with enhanced practice management functionality. 
The RIS offers features designed to streamline the workflow and financial efficiency of hospital radiology departments, imaging centers, surgery centers and private practices, from patient eligibility and scheduling though claim submissions and insurance and self-pay collections. The multi-site, fully web-based RIS provides comprehensive electronic management of a facility’s radiology workflow and includes real-time and batch patient insurance eligibility verification, an enhanced claims editor/clearinghouse solution and automated self-pay collection processes to enable precise management of the revenue cycle. Features include a drag-and-drop user-friendly scheduling interface and advanced report generation tools, including voice recognition. Customizable workflow definitions and reporting templates as well as physician-based report routing rules allow the flexibility to support any practice. Other features include real-time marketing reports and a full range of report delivery options to referring physicians such as fax, email and online report access. RIS functionality and advanced practice management features provide efficiency by eliminating duplication of data input and maximizing returns on claims processing. The result is improved radiology workflow and acceleration of the claims and billing processes, leading to enhanced profitability.

Agfa HealthCare launched functional extensions for digital mammography reading and reporting applications IMPAX PACS and its business consulting group and shared IMPAX Data Center. The company also demonstrated IMPAX Clinical Applications. Finally, Agfa shared information