January 23, 2018 – The number of clinical images captured and stored each year throughout America’s healthcare system is staggering: An estimated 36 million MRIs and 74 million computed tomography (CT) scans were performed in the United States in 2017 alone, and that just scratches the surface. Consider too the myriad of wound care and other visual condition assessments taken with smartphones, digital images acquired from surgical scopes, cardiology images and even point-of-care ultrasounds captured annually, and it’s easy to see why enterprise imaging strategies are top-of-mind for today’s healthcare organizations. Intuitive access to this growing number of clinical images is already playing an increasingly important role in electronic health record (EHR) optimization strategies and value-based clinical practices. But, according to Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, the healthcare-focused arm of Logicalis US, an international information technology (IT) solutions and managed services provider, as new technologies ranging from deep machine learning to the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved digital pathology interpretation software come to market, the capture, storage and management of discrete clinical images is quite literally expected to explode.
“Developing an enterprise imaging strategy and then marrying that strategy to an EHR optimization program is just the beginning of healthcare’s digital transformation. But even when you have the most sophisticated EHR solution in place and have married patients’ digital images to their electronic health records, your transformation journey is not complete,” warned Kim Garriott, principal consultant, Logicalis Healthcare Solutions. “New technologies – things like deep machine learning and digital pathology – that are already visible on the horizon will require your organization to be much more ‘digitally mature.’ Yet, despite the complexity involved in preparing to take full advantage of these emerging capabilities, the payoff in better patient outcomes and, ultimately, better value for the organization and patient alike, will make the journey worthwhile.”
Emphasizing the importance of clinical imaging in health IT, HIMSS Analytics and the European Society of Radiology (ESR) jointly developed the Digital Imaging Adoption Model (DIAM), a multi-stage imaging IT maturity model first introduced at the 29th European Congress of Radiology in Vienna in 2016. Slated for introduction in the U.S. market at the 2018 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Meeting (HIMSS18), the DIAM helps healthcare organizations visualize what “digital imaging maturity” looks like and understand the considerations needed to attain it.
Further highlighting the importance of clinical imaging, in the newly updated version of DIAM’s predecessor, the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM), the requirement for the adoption of digital imaging has been promoted from a Stage 5 requirement to Stage 1.
Five Steps for Better Image Management
All of this means healthcare CIOs must continue to prepare for the coming wave of image-related data and its intelligent use. To help, the experts at Logicalis Healthcare Solutions have put together a series of five important tips:
1. Develop an Enterprise Imaging Strategy: An enterprise imaging strategy should consider all aspects of imaging, regardless of type, from acquisition to analysis. Imaging is a complex area of health IT, and it does not start and stop in radiology. While radiology is, and likely will always be, the producer of the highest volume of clinical images, it is important to consider the widespread use of point-of-care ultrasound, digital photography and other types of clinical images as well.
2. Create a Data Governance Model: Healthcare organizations need to design and implement data standards for images and associated metadata elements now to be ready to enable a relevant presentation of images within the EHR and take advantage of upcoming analytics and deep learning capabilities as they become more mainstream. It is also important that the standards developed are applied uniformly to ensure the highest data value.
3. Focus on Interoperability: It is not acceptable to expect clinicians to launch multiple applications in unique frames without patient context. Even though specialized image viewing tool sets may be needed depending on physician specialty, and while those toolsets may reside in disparate applications, it is critical that the user experiences a unified viewing environment. Therefore, potential software solutions must comply with industry standards, including Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) among others, and support seamless interoperability to the EHR and the primary diagnostic and clinical viewers in use.
4. Standardize Image Acquisition Workflows: Given the wide variety of image acquisition-related use cases across a multitude of clinical disciplines, standardizing the organization’s image acquisition workflow may seem like a daunting task. However, upon closer examination, there are really only a few variations to consider. The creation of standardized workflows will enable faster onboarding of service lines needing image management services, and it will ensure that data standards are applied and that images are presented appropriately within the EHR.
5. Embrace Image Lifecycle Management: Most organizations are still retaining clinical images using expensive, antiquated storage technologies or ignoring the lifecycle management capabilities provided by their vendor neutral archives (VNAs) or image management solutions. The use of hybrid cloud strategies, starting with Tier 4 image storage, is a great way to reduce the overall cost of retaining an image while accommodating the long-term retention requirements needed for research and for compliance with regulatory mandates like those required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Explore the essential components of an enterprise imaging strategy in a one-hour, virtual Enterprise Imaging Executive Workshop: http://ow.ly/FIq730hNykP
Watch an interview with Logicalis Healthcare Solutions’ enterprise imaging expert Kim Garriott: http://ow.ly/ZxPy30hNxhh
This article was contributed by Logicalis Healthcare Solutions. Kim Garriott, principal consultant, healthcare strategies for Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, helps healthcare clients develop enterprise imaging strategies that maximize the value of their healthcare IT projects.