Team-building for an enterprise imaging workflow

It wasn’t all that long ago that discussions of imaging workflows were confined to radiology.

Today, imaging has truly gone enterprise-wide, with medical centers needing to optimize their processes and technology to accommodate images from cardiology, pathology, dermatology and more.

This is obviously a huge undertaking, but as sites bring their workflows up-to-date, the most important component is people. Matthew C. Hayes, CIIP, MBA. CV PACS Administrator at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, has spoken on building highly-effective teams of imaging informatics professionals, and offers his take on the ingredients of a solid team.

Starts with people

Hayes notes that with the evolution of enterprise imaging, many people getting involved will be familiar with different aspects of the technology. “They may have an entirely different imaging background and experience set than previously encountered.”

It’s important to acknowledge that everyone is in the same boat and that the work is centered on patient care, says Hayes. There may be gaps in experience, but these can be overcome with quality, frequent communication.

“Make sure you make no assumptions when dealing with people, especially if they’re new. Sometimes you have to spell things out and that’s fine,” says Hayes.

Building relationships across the enterprise can keep imaging informatics team members visible to other staff, which is why Hayes suggests seeking out opportunities to serve on outside committees, governance boards or other similar avenues of working with colleagues.

Tools of the trade

While people are the base on which an enterprise imaging workflow is built, technology obviously is vital. Hayes notes a number of essential tools that will improve communication between staff at all levels.

Structured reporting has become a necessity, for example, and sites need to seek out systems that best support physicians in easily formatting structured, quantitative data. “In many clinical subspecialties, it’s becoming essential to have good structured data,” says Hayes.

Another trend that is evolving is context-rich reporting, with hyperlinks to help those reviewing reports easily click and access outside information.

Vendors are starting to key in on the importance of communication between physicians and are building enterprise messaging into many of their applications. Hayes sees this as another opportunity to bring stakeholders together.

“If you’re a clinician and you have a question for a radiologist or pathologist or cardiologist on a diagnosis they made, within the context of the report you could be able to launch a chat session with them,” he says.

The informatics team, too, needs to keep up communication with one another, and Hayes suggests leveraging the myriad applications out there, such as remote presentations to stay keyed into meetings when not present.

Know thyself

Self-assessment at the organizational level is another large piece of the enterprise imaging puzzle. “Within the specific departments, staff know their workflows, but that may not be obvious to external departments,” says Hayes. Having some familiarity with processes in different departments can help drive discussions, especially when change is necessary.

Governance models will vary from organization to organization, but it’s important to get people together in a room to discuss not just what they are doing but where the organization as a whole is going.

Analytics is the bear in the room, says Hayes. Hospitals as a whole and each department within them will need to prove what they are bringing to the table. The informatics team can add value by knowing which performance measures to track and how to harvest that information. Readmission rates offer one example of a focus area, notes Hayes, and any intelligence a provider can leverage as to why patients come back should be communicated effectively across teams. If done successfully, this can trim unnecessary repeat imaging, save costs and increase value.

Looking ahead, one of the challenges will be learning to cut through the noise of constantly flowing information. There are more tools now than ever to communicate across the enterprise, now is the time to optimize processes.

“Technology has outpaced medicine for many years, but I think that gap has narrowed where medical practice is slowly starting to meet the breakneck pace of change,” says Hayes. “Technology is delivering us good tools, it’s up to us to adopt them for our own use.”