Smooth Operator: The Digital Dashboard Drives Optimum Performance

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Carestream Health’s Kodak Carestream Digital Dashboard software provides PACS administrators with a convenient way to monitor equipment performance, storage utilization and user volumes.

The digital dashboard not only steers daily PACS and imaging department operations, but also can color the roadmap for future travels . Digital image management (a.k.a. PACS), often coupled with RIS, is the engine of the 21st century radiology department and imaging center. Market penetration is high with nearly all large and mid-sized hospitals invested in PACS. In the last two years, the small community hospital and imaging center market has exploded.

But digital radiology can be a tricky business. Most sites have limited fiscal resources. In fact, the push to maximize resources is at an all-time high with the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) forcing healthcare to tighten its collective belts. Imaging providers, whether they are large academic institutions or single site centers, need to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of their imaging investments —imaging systems, PACS and staff. The unused scanner or downed image review system represents dollars that few radiology departments or imaging centers can afford to forego.

To further complicate the environment, PACS administrators are in high demand, and it may be difficult for smaller sites to hire an administrator or dedicate an FTE to PACS administration. At the same time, decentralization of imaging is on the rise. It is increasingly common for a single PACS administrator to oversee multiple sites.

Finally, imaging is a business, and daily and long-term decisions should be based on hard data.

PACS vendors have recognized the challenges surrounding the digital image management environment and are tapping into IT to help sites gain a better handle on the business of imaging. A number of vendors are wrapping the solution—a digital dashboard—into their PACS or RIS/PACS offerings. Others are marketing distinct dashboard software to help improve the business of radiology.

Although each dashboard solution is unique, the general thrust of the digital dashboard is a tool to oversee the department to help administrators better manage business, IT and staffing challenges. For example, the digital dashboard can pinpoint reimbursement denials, underused scanners or system glitches. The end game is to help customers improve their imaging business. Some dashboards hone in on IT and operational issues, while others focus on the business aspects of radiology management. Others enable retrospective data mining to help sites plan future projects. Regardless of the objective, early adopters are proving that the digital dashboard can improve efficiency, patient care and the bottom line.

This month, several facilities discuss how they have implemented digital dashboard solutions to withstand the various challenges of digital image management, enhance PACS performance and improve imaging operations and efficiencies.

The single screen snapshot

Eric Bruce, PACS administrator at Good Samaritan Community Healthcare in Puyallup, Wash., signed on as a beta tester of Carestream Health’s Kodak Carestream Digital Dashboard software early this year. The project promised a one-stop data shop with a simple stoplight icon to provide an overview of any monitored device. “Carestream Digital Dashboard has saved me a lot of work in the last several months. I have a single view of systems and processes that I normally would have to search for in four or five places,” explains Bruce. The dashboard automatically performs routine system checks—replacing the conventional, often unrealistic, process of logging into the UNIX sever to perform tests.

Bruce’s dashboard setup is simple. The PACS administrator relies on a dual-screen monitor and dedicates one screen to Carestream Digital Dashboard. “It’s the first application I launch in the morning and the last tool I shut down every evening,” Bruce says.  

The software is designed to analyze Carestream PACS and the database server to determine functionality. It identifies problems by device, IP address and process to help the administrator pinpoint the issue. Prior to the digital dashboard, the protocol for fixing problems such as a malfunctioning archive manager required Bruce or another staff member to search for the problem. “With Carestream Digital Dashboard, we’re not looking for a needle in the haystack. It brings the needle to my attention,” sums Bruce. For example,