Image Management Across the 'ologies

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The unified desktop delivers across-the-board advantages

Siemens Healthcare’s syngo Imaging workstation is the basis of the goal to achieve a unified desktop or single digital patient jacket at Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, N.C., enabling radiology as well as cardiology to access images via a web viewer.

For a number of leading-edge enterprises, image management across multiple ‘ologies is the logical next step in the ongoing image management process. Integrating image-intense ‘ologies such as cardiology, pathology and orthopedics into the radiology image management solution can deliver a number of advantages. Facilities and health systems working toward the vision of a unified platform anticipate benefits on all fronts: clinical, operational and economic.

On the clinical side, streamlined access to images across various specialties provides clinicians more complete data for decision-making, ultimately benefitting patient care. On the operational front, a multi-ology desktop improves clinician efficiency as the need to access discrete workstations or log into multiple systems is eliminated.

Consider for example a typical cardiac patient who has had chest x-ray, CT and echo studies. The physician might need to view the x-ray and CT images on the radiology system and then log into a separate CVIS workstation to view the echo studies, which can impede the diagnostic process. In fact, leading-edge enterprises like Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona identify the need for cardiologists to access cardiac studies stored in the radiology PACS as a primary driver for a unified, multi-department desktop.

The unified desktop, or single digital patient jacket, also helps leverage IT resources by reducing the number of discrete systems requiring management. Finally, there’s a compelling economic rationale for image management across the ‘ologies. An integrated, multi-department image management system consolidates IT infrastructure and trims associated costs like storage. “Standardized image management infrastructure that supports the various ‘ologies is critical in large scale enterprises,” says Dennis Shelley, director of enterprise imaging at Sisters of Mercy Health System in St. Louis.

Cardiology connections

At many sites, cardiology precipitates the initial need to merge image access across multiple specialties. It’s a natural fit as cardiology is one of the heftiest consumers of imaging services, and many cardiology departments are invested in cardiac PACS or CVIS.

At Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, N.C., “image management remains a work-in-progress,” says Director of Imaging Technology Chris DeAngelo. “Image management across the ‘ologies, or the unified desktop for viewing various image datasets, is a wonderful concept.” Currently, Alamance operates distinct radiology and cardiology PACS, but the lines are beginning to blur. That’s because the radiology solution—Siemens Healthcare syngo Imaging Suite—provides critical functionality not available on the CVIS. “The CVIS platform does not offer a good method for distributing images throughout the organization,” says DeAngelo. In contrast, syngo Imaging incorporates functionality that allows the center to deploy images via a web viewer throughout the organization.

When the center rolled out the web viewer and new features that allowed users to launch images from the EMR, clinicians started to access radiology images more consistently. But similar access was not available for cardiology images, except for cardiac nuclear medicine studies stored in syngo Imaging. Once physicians became accustomed to viewing radiology images online, the prospect of going to the cardiology department to view images on a CVIS workstation became more untenable. Consequently, Alamance Regional Medical Center decided to incorporate cardiac cath and echo studies in syngo Imaging.

The process, says DeAngelo, is fairly straightforward. syngo Imaging contains tools to handle cardiology images; the main tasks are configuring the imaging devices to send data to PACS and extending RIS functionality to other systems such as the CVIS. The IT department creates echo procedures in the RIS, so the images can be appropriately attached.

Less than two years into the project, Alamance is seeing its benefits. “We’re providing information to physicians ASAP and in one place,” shares DeAngelo. In addition to clinical efficiencies, the center has realized IT efficiencies because