RIS: On the verge of demise or ultimate innovator?

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As RIS reaches the half-century mark, many of its hallmark capabilities—order entry, patient registration and report repository—have migrated to the EHR. Consequently, questions about the viability of radiology’s conventional power horse have surfaced. Rather than spelling imminent demise, the situation may provide an opportunity for innovation, according to a medical informatics and physics review published in the May issue of American Journal of Roentgenology.

John W. Nance, Jr., MD, from the department of radiology at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues outlined categories of advanced RIS functionality, which they defined as capabilities not commonly available through RIS vendors. These are:

  • EMR aggregation – which provides access to clinical data in disparate hospital information systems via the radiology workstation;
  • Order entry and clinical decision support – integrated tools to help optimize imaging utilization at order entry, interpretation and recommendation stages;
  • Advanced workflow – peer review, critical findings and automated reporting and technologist feedback;
  • Digital dashboards – presentation of real-time data to help optimize departmental operations;
  • Data mining – retrieval of radiology reports to facilitate real-time performance, teaching and research initiatives;
  • Customer service – customer-centric functionality such as ease of scheduling, exam preparation instructions and prompt access to results for patients; and RIS-based tracking, automated reporting, computerized order entry, structured reporting and tools to increase image access, distribution and integration with the EMR for referring clinicians;
  • Surveillance and outcomes – PACS-integrated teaching files to close the loop on difficult cases and support lifelong learning.

“Radiology continues to be one of the most technology-heavy clinical endeavors, potentially serving as a key proving ground for information technology specialists looking to improve quality, efficiency, and patient care through improved access to relevant clinical data and innovative software tools. Radiologists themselves may spend more time than any other physician specialty directly interacting with computer systems as they provide patient care, and they are well positioned to lead in the transformation of medicine through electronic health records that is currently under way,” Nance et al concluded.