Survey: The state of system integration in academic radiology departments

Academic radiology departments report varying levels of integration between PACS and other IT tools such as dictation systems, critical notification systems and electronic medical records, according to results of a study published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

While use of PACS continues to be the technological cornerstone of radiologists’ daily work-lives, other advanced IT systems are now commonly utilized by academic radiology departments as well.

Improving the level of integration of these various data systems with PACS is critical to ensuring the efficiency of radiology workflow, said Daniel Forsberg, PhD, and his colleagues from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Improved integration of PACS with other IT systems continues to play a focal role for future workflow efficiency improvements,” they wrote. “Despite a general awareness that improved integration is needed, little is known of the current state of integration between PACS and other IT systems pertinent to radiologists, and subsequently where the most challenging areas of integration are found.”

Forsberg and his team devised a study to assess the readiness of the radiology profession for the ongoing transition to value-based health care by investigating the level of integration between PACS and other relevant IT systems routinely used by radiologists in the nation’s academic radiology departments.

To do so, they performed a cross-sectional online survey of members of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments. The survey consisted of a number of specific questions on integration, including PACS integration with various other IT systems perceived as relevant by the departments’ radiologists.

They found that the system most commonly integrated with PACS were dictation systems (90 percent), while there was comparatively low levels of integration between PACS and critical notification systems (15 percent). Overall, the results of the survey indicated better integration of PACS and radiology information systems (82 percent) than of PACS and electronic medical records (47 percent).

“Integration supporting radiologists’ personal productivity is well spread among [academic radiology departments], but as we transition into a value-based health care delivery model, there is a need to focus further integration efforts on systems with the greatest potential to document value in a patient-centric setting,” the researchers concluded. “Examples of such focus areas include integration of PACS and electronic medical records, adoption of vendor-neutral archives, and the use of workflow management systems.”