Implementing a RIS/PACS presents an imaging center with major changes to operations, workflow and practice. Physicians and administrators can realize enormous benefits from the introduction of the technology, provided the A, B, Cs of their master plan includes a D for proper deployment.
South Jersey Radiology Associates (SJRA), a full portfolio imaging group with 43 physicians centered in Voorhees, N.J., employs RIS/PACS at all 10 of its imaging center facilities. The GE Healthcare Centricity PACS-IW system five years ago replaced a prior-generation system that lacked web-based capabilities, says PACS Administrator Kim Baldwin.
One measurable benefit of RIS/PACS has come in reduced distractions from fewer phone calls between the imaging centers. “We have about 8,000 physicians that refer [patients] to SJRA. The PACS gives them real-time access to reports and makes it easy for the physicians to view images,” says Baldwin.
SJRA sees a large case mix, including CT, PET CT, mammography, DEXA x-ray, MRI, ultrasound and nuclear medicine studies. “We are completely digital, every modality is connected to the PACS,” she says.
South Jersey Radiology is a super-user of sorts. Each day, the imaging centers together generate about 1,000 reports. And the RIS/PACS has many more users than the previously installed system. “The old system had five referring users,” she says. “Now we have more than 2,000, with close to 100 logged in throughout the day.”
Baldwin confirms the system has been well received by referring physicians. Of the 400 employees working for SJRA, about one quarter are technologists, with 43 radiologists currently employed. Baldwin notes that the system is useful to almost every employee. The technologists find the quality control (QC) feature most useful, as well as the capability to change patient history and information for the referring physician. However, it is the radiologists who have gained the most from the system.
“The features our radiologists like the best are the embedded 3D, spine labeling, and triangulation function, end-user definable worklists and the ability for free form window layouts. It is web-based so they can read from home and have the same functionality as in the office,” Baldwin explains.
As the system’s administrator, Baldwin appreciates its web capabilities and the fact it is “user friendly and very intuitive.”
Integration & interoperability
Flexibility is the main feature Clay Hinrichs, MD, of Hackettstown Diagnostic Imaging appreciates from the facility’s Infinitt RIS/PACS. The system is installed at all three of the group’s imaging centers in Hackettstown, N.J.
“I was looking for an integrated vendor, so I would not have to select a registration, billing, RIS and PACS. I was favoring a system that had a turnkey approach,” Hinrichs says.
This turnkey approach enables Hackettstown to use the system through the entire continuum of care—from the point at which the patient is registered, to the point when the bills are submitted to payors.
“When I went with Infinitt, there were few, if any vendors offering this. I’ve been using [Infinitt’s system] for three to four years now,” he says.
The deployment of the RIS/PACS has brought about workflow benefits for the five radiologists who work at the imaging centers. “Flexibility is one thing we like,” Hinrichs says. “For any study coming in, we are able to produce reports quickly, but on the other hand, we are able to take advantage of using transcriptionists to improve our workflow and being able to interpret many more studies.”
The 12 technologists at the centers, like the radiologists, appreciate the “inherent flexibility” of the system—especially with regard to making sure the patient information is correct, making sure the images get to where they need to be and are accompanied by the appropriate documents.
In fact, all Hackettstown employees make use of the RIS/PACS because “everything is generated easily, [and the system] makes everything seamless,” says Hinrichs.
Growth has been a challenge, but RIS/PACS has eased the growing pains. “One of the big issues is we’ve moved from having one imaging center, and now we have just opened our third,” says Hinrichs. “One thing we wanted to do was share scheduling resources between the centers. We now have the ability to schedule at any of the three centers by any of our staff.”
Perhaps most noteworthy for Hinrichs