RSNA: IT drives quality, safety & performance

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CHICAGO—Implementing IT advances into radiology departments and practices drives critical improvements in patient safety, quality and efficiency, according to a presentation given Dec. 1 at the 96th annual scientific meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

As imaging utilization grows and demand for improved quality and safety grow stronger, radiologists should look to next-generation IT solutions for support, according to David E. Avrin, MD, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. "Medical informatics is key to quality and safety," commented Avrin.

The typical hospital has a federation of 30 electronic medical information systems, including PACS, RIS, pharmacy entry and scheduling. Developing an infrastructure that can support and integrate all of these systems accurately into patients' electronic medical records (EMRs) is necessary. Avrin underscored the importance of accurate patient identification, documenting past identification errors that led to inappropriate and unnecessary patient procedures. Substantial human error can be removed from this issue, according Avrin, with electronic entry and barcoded patient wristbands.

"There is tremendous power [for radiologists] in the web," Avrin noted. Search engines and subscription services provide radiologists with immediate access to copious information, with the help of radiology-vetting sites. These and other decision-support tools enhance the quality and efficiency of radiologists. Avrin alerted radiologists, however, to the importance of questioning the trustworthiness of all sites.

Finally, Avrin highlighted the ability of voice recognition software to augment radiologists' efficiency. Voice recognition enables radiologists to dictate reports in as little as one to minutes, often error-free. According to Avrin, using templates for different study types and dictating with confidence (don't look at the screen) dramatically improve the effectiveness of speech recognition. Moreover, integrating voice recognition into PACS to bring up a patient's prior records makes for quicker and higher quality radiology.

Applying IT to EMRs, decision-support and report dictation improve the quality and efficiency of radiologists and the safety of patients, Avrin concluded. "You cannot do quality and safety without medical informatics."