Inside Information-Assisted Imaging Workflow

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 The link among quality, workflow and integration is strong. Integration builds efficient workflow processes, and the combination can boost quality in the healthcare enterprise. Alegent Health, a nine-hospital system in Omaha, Neb., has leveraged a wide array of integrated imaging and IT applications from Siemens Medical Solutions to optimize workflow and improve quality and patient care in its healthcare facilities. The relationship between Alegent Health and Siemens goes beyond imaging and IT equipment. They have built a strategic alliance, which helps guide the decision-making process at the healthcare organization.

The imaging and IT formula

Over the last several years, Alegent Health has embarked on a massive campaign to update its imaging and IT infrastructure and implement digital processes. The fully integrated digital imaging environment delivers a number of benefits, says Senior Vice President and CIO Ken Lawonn. Standardizing equipment, processes and technology helps the organization meet key goals including trimming costs, optimizing quality and increasing efficiency. Another critical benefit, says Lawonn, is the widespread availability of information to caregivers. Caregivers can access information not only at the point of care, but also at their offices and homes and across the hospital system.

PACS & People

Digital image management, is an IT solution, but a truly successful deployment hinges on people as well as technology. Alegent Health approached the human side of the PACS deployment with the same degree of commitment as the technical side. The healthcare organization considered relationships with outside vendors and staff as it entered the digital era.

On the equipment front, Alegent looked for a technology collaborator rather than a vendor. The organization selected Siemens Medical Solutions as its primary imaging and IT provider. The benefits of the single-source approach are significant, says Senior Vice President and CIO Ken Lawonn. For starters, the arrangement facilitates standardization and integration, which boosts efficiency among care providers. At the next level, the healthcare organization can develop a stronger relationship with one primary vendor. If there are multiple vendors, it is much more difficult to nurture relationships with each vendor. Alegent Health and Siemens have grown the relationship into a strategic alliance, and now the healthcare organization taps into Siemens’ expertise for input into the long-term strategic planning process.

The other human element of digital image management is the medical staff. “It’s important to engage medical staff in the evaluation and selection process as early as possible,” Lawonn says. This boosts buy-in among physicians and helps guide the enterprise toward an optimal solution from the clinical perspective.

Alegent Health also garnered significant support among clinical staff by ensuring that its technical infrastructure sufficed for the transition to digital image management. The organization invested in network upgrades, redundant servers and state-of the-art storage solutions like EMC Corporation’s CLARiiON networked storage to ensure optimal image and data transmission speeds.

The final element relates to sharing knowledge from other healthcare organizations. “There is no need to reinvent the wheel when deploying PACS,” says Jeff Broz, operations director, imaging applications. “Healthcare organizations can leverage the expertise of other sites,” continues Broz. He recommends that healthcare organizations locate allies and complete site visits to understand objectives and challenges associated with digital image management. This approach can save time, fine tune the project and uncover undetected roadblocks prior to implementation.

Alegent’s image management solutions include Siemens Cardiology and Radiology PACS platform and syngo Workflow RIS, which handles radiology workflow. Siemens also provides the lion’s share of the organization’s imaging modalities including SOMATOM Definition dual-source CT scanners, SOMATOM Sensation 64 CT scanners, SOMATOM Sensation 16-slice CT scanners, MAGNETOM Trio 3T, Espree and Symphony MRI systems. Other solutions across the enterprise include Siemens Soarian Clinical Access electronic medical record (EMR) on the inpatient side and a NextGen outpatient EMR.

The rationale for the primarily single vendor approach is simple, says Jeff Broz, operations director, imaging applications. “Alegent Health