An ongoing trend to consolidate clinical information at the point of patient care, the need to minimize equipment and system downtime, and growing interest in tracking trends and patterns are a few of the factors driving the use of digital dashboards in radiology. Products designed for specific roles within the imaging chain are assisting practices, hospitals and imaging centers with the management of volume and growth. Meanwhile, further developments are in the works.
Leslie Beidleman, regional PACS administrator for Mercy Health Partners in Toledo, Ohio, has been monitoring running processes, stored data and logged-in users for about two years using the Carestream Digital Dashboard. These are important metrics for an organization running and storing about 400,000 exams across three facilities annually. For example, Beidleman recently saw an escalation in the number of studies not backed up. By contacting Carestream technical support, she found out the exact nature of the problem. “I don’t know if I would have caught on so quickly without the dashboard.” And, of course the goal is to “catch something early—before any service is affected.”
A simplified process is one of the biggest benefits for Beidleman. The tools let users pick and choose which tasks to add into the system. “I have the flexibility to add what I want, I’m not locked into a certain set of tasks that comes with the product.” Some of her tasks have made it easier to provide management with feedback on certain criteria. Plus, the simple interface lets others easily step in to monitor systems in her absence.
Metrics let users display a modality and related data such as volume by hour and workflow patterns. Since Beidleman is responsible for three different facilities, the dashboard helps her effectively monitor image and data storage. “I can get a report on whether we are growing, declining or staying the same,” she says. That also helps with projecting future storage needs. “Having the capability to look at [data] drives and see how they are filling up lets me be much more proactive.” She could spend time compiling information, but the dashboard already provides interactive, graphed displays.
The right role
Jim Busch, MD, CEO of Specialty Networks, the IT arm of Diagnostic Radiology Consultants, a 10-radiologist practice in Chattanooga, Tenn., uses Portal Radiologist from Siemens Medical Solutions. He likes the role-based design user interface that interacts with RIS, PACS and voice recognition. Since a RIS typically is designed for everybody who would interact with it, it includes features and functions for everyone from schedulers to technologists to administrative staff. Those details can be distracting for radiologists, he says. With a role-based tool, “the goal is to get 90 percent of what you use right in front of you and the rest just one click away.”
By linking with the practice’s integrated RIS/PACS solution, the portal has helped the group streamline the entire interpretation process. Exams can be autoloaded or selected, it automatically launches speech recognition software, and offers default reports and virtual reading rooms. Report turn-around time has dropped from up to several days for subspecialty reports to just one hour, and about 15 minutes for STAT and ER reports.
The practice is located in an area highly competitive in MRI, with seven magnets on the same stretch of road. The practice has realized 10 to 15 percent growth each of the last several years. And, since putting the dashboard in place, the group lost one radiologist and managed increased volume without replacing him or extending hours—thanks to a 35 percent increase in efficiency. “The synergy of the whole system is where you get a lot of this efficiency.”
Busch notes that a survey of referring physicians indicated that their biggest concerns were ease in scheduling exams and how fast they can get the reports. With a financial interest in some outpatient facilities, “we wanted to use our system as a market differentiator to boost the business. It’s been amazing for that.”
Busch anticipates the release of more portals designed for each of the stakeholders in the imaging chain such as radiology administrators, PACS administrators and IT folks. “In a competitive market, that gives you an advantage. It definitely makes a big difference on anyone interacting with it.” The newest role-based portals expected later this summer will allow for snapshots of the enterprise and a look