Streamlining Imaging in the Growing Enterprise

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 Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) in Portsmouth, Ohio, a 235-bed community hospital, is at a crossroads. It aims to become the leading medical center in the region and strives to provide appropriate, high quality, timely and cost-effective service. Its imaging department is top-notch. The primary-care hospital provides a full range of diagnostic imaging procedures, including digital mammography, PET/CT and digital radiography. SOMC was an early PACS adopter, deploying Agfa HealthCare IMPAX PACS in 1998, leveraging an EMC information infrastructure. It also uses Agfa HealthCare’s TalkStation and Agfa HealthCare’s RIS. Radiography solutions include Agfa HealthCare computed radiography and DXS systems and Shimadzu Mobile DaRT for wireless digital portable radiography.

Currently, SOMC and its two satellite imaging centers complete 170,000 studies annually. Its volume, however, is expected to increase substantially over the next several years as the medical center is undertaking a $100 million project that will expand its cardiac and vascular services and add about 100 patient beds. The project coincides with three enterprise imaging initiatives, reports RIS/PACS Administrator Howard Stewart.

The projects over the next two to three years include implementing Agfa IMPAX 6.0 PACS, merging cardiology into the overall IT infrastructure and adding a physician portal. SOMC initiatives are designed to streamline workflow for both radiologists and clinicians, improve access to data and simplify IT management. “It will bring significant changes to the cardiology department and also benefit radiology,” predicts Stewart. 

Distributed PACS delivers

SOMC has begun implementing IMPAX 6.0, and expects to complete the project in three to six months. The upgrade is a distributed PACS application rather than a client-server model. “Many vendors want to tie imaging data to specific workstations and equipment. IMPAX 6.0 moves away from that model,” explains Stewart.

Although the SOMC radiology department uses IMPAX, its cardiac cath lab relies on a different archiving system. Physicians must use contained workstations to retrieve and view cardiac cath imaging data. This model does not facilitate optimal physician workflow or a coordinated patient care model. In fact, the opposite is true. The workstation model can restrict physician workflow, impede flexibility and hamper clinical decision-making and the speed of patient care.

“IMPAX 6.0 infuses PACS throughout the enterprise by providing licensing based on concurrent users,” Stewart says. It will allow SOMC to deliver coordinated patient care, a key factor as the hospital moves forward with its expansion project. “Cardiologists need to interact with cardiac surgeons, pulmonologists and other clinical specialists. They need to view a wide variety of imaging data including cath results, CT images and calcium scores,” continues Stewart. IMPAX 6.0 allows users to access the full complement of patient imaging data from a single workstation. Ultimately, it gives physicians the tools and data they need to make well-informed clinical decisions in minimal time, without disrupting workflow.

Distributed image management dovetails nicely with the second SOMC initiative—tying cardiology into the overall IT infrastructure. “Our goal is for physicians to access the data they need at the point of care; data should be available at the physician workpoint—not tied to specific workstations,” explains Stewart, “Data should be accessible by mobile physicians who no longer work from a single location.”

The portal payoff

SOMC has used a homegrown portal for several years; however, the system has several limitations. That is, it does not provide access to live data such as patient monitoring and, in addition, it requires physicians to complete multiple log-ins. “Our vision is a one-stop shop for physicians,” says Stewart. Once SOMC implements a physician portal like Agfa Enterprise Clinical Dashboard, physicians will log onto the portal once to access all pertinent patient information including imaging and lab reports. The portal also will provide access to imaging programs and allow physicians to update reports. It meets the common twin goals of improving patient care and physician workflow.

Enterprise advice

Selecting a PACS vendor is a bit like marriage. It is a long-term commitment fraught with change, challenges and growing pains. SOMC selected wisely with its initial radiology implementation and has benefited