The Integrated Cardiology Enterprise

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Source: © TriMed Media Group

Cardiology is an increasingly complex imaging and IT-intense specialty. Hospitals are grappling with multiple new demands and challenges. Digital imaging and digital image management have become the mainstay of the 21st century cardiology department. PACS solutions such as Siemens Medical Solutions syngo Dynamics (formerly KinetDx) help cardiologists manage data, increase efficiency and improve patient care.

Alegent Health in Omaha, Neb., has tapped into an array of Siemens imaging and IT solutions to improve operations, workflow and patient care across five of its hospitals and multiple outpatient sites. syngo Dynamics serves as the anchor of the highly integrated cardiac imaging, reporting and distribution systems.

Cardiology image & data management

Alegent Health first deployed syngo Dynamics at Bergan Mercy Medical Center in February 2004. Initially, the project incorporated four workstations. In the last three years, however, it has grown, and now five of the healthcare system’s nine hospitals have deployed syngo Dynamics. Users rely on nearly 30 hospital-based workstations, and the healthcare system plans to add off-campus workstations later this year. One of the health system’s primary cardiology providers — Cardiovascular Specialists — also deployed the same PACS, syngo Dynamics, at its offices. In addition, syngo Dynamics is integrated with Soarian, Siemens’ healthcare process management solution, so results are available via the electronic medical record. Over the last several years, Alegent Health has worked closely with Siemens to optimize its systems and tap into all potential benefits of Siemens solutions including enhanced quality, more efficient workflow and improved patient care.

Alegent Health has employed relatively similar implementation schedules at each syngo Dynamics site. The project is tackled in stages, beginning with echocardiography. The next steps focus on vascular ultrasound and cardiac catheterization. The transition from video to digital has been completely positive, says Steve Brown, manager of Heart and Vascular Institute at Bergan Hospital.

syngo Dynamics has helped the physicians to become much more efficient,” says Jeff Bro, syngo Dynamics system administrator, “because they can read studies from any campus.” For example, a Lakeside Hospital-based cardiologist can interpret an echo acquired across town at Mercy Hospital. The universal availability of images is a significant benefit particularly with cardiac cath studies, says Brian Halpenny, manager, cardiovascular services at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lakeside Hospital. “Surgeons can call up studies in the OR  [over the web via PACS] after the study has been completed in the cath lab.”

The integrated cardiac system easily facilitates cross-campus consultations between cardiologists and surgeons. It eliminates the time, expense and hassle of copying film studies. If a patient undergoes a catheterization at a site that does not offer cardiac surgery, the cardiologist can phone a colleague at another site to discuss the appropriate intervention as they each view the images on workstations. If the patient is transferred for surgery, all necessary data and images are easily available at the receiving site.

Digital eliminates video tape for echocardiography study review, which yields fairly dramatic gains for cardiologists. “We can do a better job of interpreting studies because we don’t need to rewind and go back and forth with digital studies. In addition, we can complete precise online measurements,” explains Randy Pritza, MD, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists, an Omaha-based practice that cares for Alegent’s cardiac patients. Prior to PACS, cardiologists could measure structures, but the manual process was more time-consuming and less exact. “Reading a study on video tape takes three times longer than interpreting a digital echocardiogram, leaving cardiologists with more time for patient care and other tasks,” reports Pritza.

syngo Dynamics also makes it much easier for physicians to compare serial studies side by side. What’s more, the system recognizes when a patient has had a prior study. In these cases, PACS recalls the previous echo, which greatly streamlines the comparison process.

PACS also enables multi-modality comparisons. That is, a cardiologist can view echocardiography and catheterization images side by side to determine if the coronary angiography results correspond to echo images — driving