Hospital staff prepares for potential failure of electronic imaging services

Imagine the electronic management system for imaging services fail, leaving radiologists with delayed bookings and examinations of images. Would a hospital's administration, medical staff and/or patients be ready for something like this?

While this is something that is unlikely to occur, such a scenario played out in real life, throwing major South Australia hospitals in disarray. For five to six hours the Enterprise System for Medical Imaging (ESMI) was down causing delays and staff to be blinded by who has an appointment and who needs an assessment.

In an effort to help inform hospital administration on the possibility of this event happening in their facilities, Radiology Business spoke with Ryan Garland, radiology and imaging manager at Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare, to see what staff has in place in the event their Radiology Information System, EPIC or DR Systems for PACS system were to fail, as the imaging department produces more than 320,000 imaging procedures annually.

“Once a failure is identified, our IT department notifies everyone via mass page, email, text and phone call. As operations managers receive the notification, we then initiate the downtime procedures, which consist of manually filling out a paper order form and walking/faxing it to the respective department,” said Garland. “We have proactively made up downtime procedure binders to include the written process and appropriate forms.”

Although the process may require a considerable amount of time with manual intervention and increase the margin of error, staff at Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare has been trained to know exactly what to do if either of systems fails.

“If EPIC goes down, we use a read-only environment that allows us to see prior reports, medication allergies and other important clinical information. The read-only environment is a copy of the last moment in time prior to the EPIC system failing. This allows us to utilize the most recent data we have to make very important medical decisions,” said Garland.

Should PACS go down, the staff would continue imaging using their respective modalities.

“Any stat cases would be preliminarily read by the radiologist from the modality computers and results relayed to the attending physician via phone call… or we would utilize a tele-radiology group that we can electronically send our studies from each modality for interpretation. Results are called to the ordering physician from the tele-radiologist. The tele-radiology group already routinely reads overnight cases for us so we have a process in place already,” said Garland.

Although Garland hopes a situation like this would never occur, he and his team of 16 radiologists are prepared and ready.