AR: Efficiency gains top imaging informatics wish list
Informatics innovations can boost productivity or market share; however, justifying the development and implementation of such systems can be challenging. An article in the February issue of Academic Radiology offered a wish list and a series of strategies for investing in specific PACS innovations.

“Importing prior imaging from outside institutions into PACS has many benefits, including improved interpretations and fewer repeat studies. However, many institutions do not import imaging performed at outside hospitals into PACS, reportedly from concerns about liability and the cost of image storage,” wrote David Avrin, MD, PhD, and Stephanie W. Hou, MD, both from the department of radiology and biomedical imaging at University of California, San Francisco.

The authors noted that the cost of image storage is minimal compared with the cost of repeat studies, which also are associated with radiation exposure and potential delays in patient care. Employing a film librarian, rather than radiologists, to import images into PACS can help maintain or boost radiologists’ efficiency, as physicians do not need to master the nuances of individual viewing programs with this model.

Avrin and Hou detailed the advantages of web-based PACS to streamline image-sharing with referring physicians, emphasizing that these systems enable “an image-based discussion of findings and diagnosis with the radiologist.”

The authors shared several other PACS innovations that could further optimize radiologists’ efficiency. These included:
  • A global worklist or system to direct studies to “underused” radiologists, which could cut the time radiologists spend searching for studies to read;
  • Automated retrieval of relevant priors means radiologists can bypass the step of looking for and loading relevant prior images;
  • PACS/EMR integration using patient-focused context management could streamline radiologists’ access to and use of patients’ medical history; and
  • Systems to communicate subcritical findings that requires follow-up could improve safety and efficiency.