Where’s the integration?

A recent study of PACS-EHR integration—or the lack thereof—in press in the Journal of the American College of Radiology hit a nerve. In a survey of the members of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments, just 47 percent of respondents reported that their PACS had been integrated with the EMR.

The fact that most respondents reported that PACS already has been integrated with dictation systems and RIS is telling: radiology needs those integrations for all of the gears to move smoothly within the department. In order to fully contribute to the enterprise—and benefit from enterprise data—radiology departments must take the next step and integrate with the EMR.

It is significant that Daniel Forsberg, MD, and colleagues defined integration as the ability of two information systems to exchange information with each other. Many past integration efforts have been one-way only, providing clinicians access to reports while denying radiologists efficient access to clinical information without the clunky step of having to log into another system. Nearly a third of respondents reported that viewed patients are synchronized between PACS and EMR. Still, bi-directional integration between PACS and EMR is the only true integration.

On the bright side, Forsberg et al expect integrations to increase, based on the fact that the radiology literature suggests that PACS-EMR integration will increase the perceived value of radiology and improve workflow efficiency. This is a start—if at least one party in the equation believes integration is important, then it has a better chance of happening.

The next step is to convince enterprise IT that radiology PACS needs bi-directional integration with the EMR. To that end, SIIM’s efforts to build a workgroup with HIMSS, subject of this month’s edition of Health Imaging Partner Voice, is to be commended.

I'm looking forward to seeing the improvements radiology will bring to the enterprise through PACS–EMR integration in the areas of improved patient care, population health management and other improvements yet to be imagined. I’d love to hear about the benefits and use cases for PACS–EMR integration that you have demonstrated—or would like to implement—at your institution.