Optimizing Workflow: Creating the Integrated Digital Mammography Facility

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Digital mammography deployments are on the rise—fast. The early adoption phase is drawing to a close as facilities large and small that delayed taking the plunge into digital now aggressively invest in the technology. What’s more, the surge is expected to gain momentum over the next decade. In fact, digital mammography volume is projected to increase more than 100 percent in the next 10 years.

The evolving digital mammography market stems from a convergence of several factors. Digital is a demonstrated winner on multiple fronts: clinically and operationally. And PACS integration makes digital mammography a more attractive investment from the workflow and economic perspectives.

Late in 2005, the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening (DMIST) Trial showed that digital mammography benefits a significant subset of women: patients with dense breasts, pre- or perimenopausal women and women under 50. The mammography subcommittee of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) intitiative also is facilitating better integration with digital mammography systems and PACS. (More information: www.ihe.net/Mammo/index.cfm) Finally, digital delivers a much more efficient technologist workflow, allowing techs to increase efficiency and focus on patient care. The upshot? Digital mammography is in the eye of a perfect storm.

Full-field digital mammography (FFDM) systems such as GE Healthcare’s Senographe solutions can transform breast imaging, but transitioning to digital mammography is a major undertaking. “Digital mammography represents a protracted and complex process,” confirms Michael Quaranta, regional director for imaging and oncology at Adventist Midwest Health in Chicago. Adventist Midwest is engaged in a fairly aggressive and rapid digital deployment, moving from the decision to implement to deployment in 12 months. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, on the other hand, invested a full two years in the digital breast center planning process, says Richard Blob, associate administrator of radiology. The follow-up phase is equally critical, says Quaranta. A well-considered solidification plan can help sites reap the full benefits of digital mammography.

Part of that plan for both facilities was assistance from GE Healthcare Performance Solutions consulting services that analyzed and reconfigured workflow and facilitated change management and training to smooth implementation, enhance user adoption and define a future road map to achieve goals.

The benefits of digital mammography are significant and include increased efficiency, better patient care and enhanced satisfaction among patients, technologists and referring physicians. This month, Health Imaging & IT presents a digital mammography primer to help sites better plan for, implement and optimize FFDM and digital workflow.

Getting started

The decision to deploy digital mammography often stems from a variety of factors. Take for example Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The hospital embraced the digital concept when it began planning a new breast center in 2005. The decision to invest in digital was based on several factors, including patient throughput, technology and economics, says Blob. Regardless of the reason for converting from analog to digital mammography, appropriate planning is a must.

Adventist Midwest Health emphasizes a strong commitment to state-of-the-art patient care; one of the Midwest region’s four hospitals, Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, underscored its commitment by participating in DMIST. After the trial confirmed the benefits of digital mammography, the health system secured funding and began evaluating its digital options.

Adventist Midwest formed an operations committee consisting of the medical director, imaging director, lead technologist, PACS representative, chief operating officer and other key constituents. “We completed traditional due diligence and analyzed all of the quality vendors in the market. We conducted site visits, reviewed images and discussed the technology with radiologists and technologists,” explains Quaranta. The group selected GE Healthcare’s Senographe DS and Senographe Essential digital mammography solutions and developed an implementation plan that would enable it to fully capitalize on the benefits of digital technology.

The implementation addresses the specific needs and goals of each digital mammography site. The first Adventist site to deploy Senographe, DuPage Imaging Center in Hinsdale,