Inside the Transition to Next-Generation Image Management

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Effective solutions to these standard—and widespread—challenges require planning, partnership and vision. Take for example Children’s Health System and its flagship 275-bed Children’s Hospital of Alabama of Birmingham, Ala. Children’s Health System is comprised of Children’s Hospital, an outpatient surgery and diagnostic center called Children’s South, an off-site pediatric specialists practice and 14 primary-care pediatrics practices across the state. The health systems’ partners—RIS/PACS from Siemens and information infrastructure from EMC Corporation—have collaborated to develop a proactive approach to the challenges of 21st century digital image management and workflow.

Early in 2008, Children’s became one of the first sites to transition from Siemens Magic technology to syngo Suite, an integrated web-enabled RIS/PACS platform, including syngo Workflow RIS and syngo Imaging PACS. In doing so, it established a solid foundation for efficient workflow, improved communication and reporting, robust cost savings, scaleable storage and disaster recovery.

The magic of syngo Suite, however, transcends workflow mastery. The RIS/PACS upgrade moved Children’s to the next level of digital image management by delivering a more sophisticated, richer user experience, allowing the imaging department to provide high value services to improve patient care across the enterprise. “ syngo Suite is so customizable and flexible. We’re confident that we can use the software to answer any business requirement including specific documentation or tracking needs,” explains Chief of Radiology Stuart Royal, MD.

A solid foundation

Children’s began the transition to digital imaging and digital image management in 2003, deploying Siemens SIENET PACS, and NOVIUS Radiology RIS and implementing an integrated RIS/PACS model. At that time, the hospital started the conversion to digital imaging equipment, installing CR and DR in the diagnostic, outpatient radiology and emergency departments and equipping operating rooms with digital C-arms. Other digital modalities added later include 16 and 64-slice CT scanners, digital R &F, ultrasound and two 1.5T MRIs. In addition, MagicWeb web-based image and report distribution provided a means to infuse digital image processes across the enterprise. The health system deployed PACS in the emergency department, operating rooms, hospital clinics and all nursing floors to deliver additional efficiencies and cost savings.

The results of the initial project are impressive. Siemens RIS-driven workflow and integrated RIS/PACS model reinvented the radiology department to provide a robust framework for high-quality pediatric care. The Children’s Hospital of Alabama radiology department is 99 percent digital, and its eight radiologists read about 140,000 imaging studies annually.

Digital image volume represents only a fraction of the picture. Children’s has gained a number of benefits with the implementation of Siemens digital image management solutions. The hospital has accelerated and improved patient care, slashed costs and shortened report turn-around time from an average of 24 hours to less than four hours. Royal credits the integrated RIS/PACS model with a 40 percent increase in efficiency among radiologists. Plus, the health system has cut film costs by $250,000 annually.

Children’s Health System, Birmingham, Ala.
  • Outpatient visits: 629,909
  • Inpatient discharges: 13,777
  • Annual imaging procedures: 140,000
  • Annual ER patient visits: 50,795
  • RIS/PACS user since: 2003
  • Stat: Only children’s hospital in Alabama

Opting for the upgrade

Despite its impressive implementation of enterprise digital image management and RIS-driven workflow, Children’s continues to actively search for ways to improve pediatric patient care. “We plan to open a new facility in 2012, so we’re focused on infrastructure to support future needs,” shares Senior Vice President of Operations Pete Van Pelt. The plan includes hiring new specialists in neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery; investing in PET/CT, interoperative MRI and an interventional radiology suite and, equally important, perfecting current processes and systems. “We’d like the new facility to be paperless,” shares IT Divisional Director Pam Atkins.

As Children’s pondered its future, the health system also faced a number of intense developments in radiology such as the nearly absolute penetration of 64-slice CT scanners. The ubiquitous 64-slice brings new challenges. The hefty datasets