In the Flow: Part 1 — New Technology Helps Keep Radiology Work Flowing
As the volume of imaging data continues to explode, radiology departments face an increasing number of workflow challenges. The good news is advances in workflow technology are helping radiologists resolve many of these issues.
Many Sites, One Cloud One improvement is the ability to share scans on the cloud as soon as they're ready. By doing so, imaging departments and centers can share their images and create worklists for their radiologists; all who need to read can do so wherever they may be located—whether on site or off. The old, time-consuming method of burning CDs and hand-delivering them to referring physicians or patients is fast becoming a thing of the past, says Carol Corder, ARRT (CV) (R), CRA, director of imaging services and noninvasive cardiology at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson, Florida.
A little more than a year ago, Bayonet Point began using Mach7 Technologies' Enterprise Imaging Solutions to manage its image-sharing needs. Sharing images on the cloud has resulted in remarkable improvements to the organization's workflow, Corder says.
"We provide our referring physicians or patients with a link to the images and results for their studies. We also share to receiving hospitals when patients are transferred for further care. The physicians sign on with their e-mail or e-mail shared account and enter their own password," she says. "This saves the patient repeated trips to pick up a CD, and the patient's physicians or receiving hospitals often can have results and images quickly." The medical center is also using this technology in its surgery department to view outside images for surgical cases, Corder notes.
Peer review has been made easier as well, Corder says. The system enables imaging coordinators to assign cases more easily to the appropriate radiologists for second reads, she says, adding that in the days of film, radiologists would select random cases and hang them in their reading rooms. "Now we can assign them on a worklist, and the radiologist knows which cases he has to review," Corder says. Information about the radiologists' availability, specialty, and location is used to set up the worklists.
Advances in workflow technology are also helping radiologists to "stay put," says Eric Rice, chief technology officer of Mach7 Technologies. "With the new technology, interoperability capabilities are much more advanced."
Until fairly recently, he says, radiologists who read for different sites had to have separate workstations in their reading room for each one. It was possible that each system they read for had its own PACS, and the radiologists had to read that health system's scans on that system's workstation. So, they would get swivel chairs and literally slide from one to the other. Worklists were created for each PACS. "Now radiologists can sit at one workstation, and it's smart enough to know to launch the different studies from the different sites," Rice says. Because the viewers are vendor neutral, radiologists can work from one station and one worklist.
Andrew D. Mills, MD, is president of Advanced Medical Imaging Consultants (AMIC), a radiology group based in the Fort Collins/Loveland area of Colorado. The practice reads for hospitals across northern Colorado, southern Wyoming, and southwest Nebraska. AMIC has more than 40 board-certified, subspecialty-trained radiologists who read close to 600,000 studies per year, serving 24 customers and more than 3,500 referring physicians.
The practice uses Intelerad's InteleOne XE to manage its cross-enterprise reading requirements and workflow. With InteleOne XE, Mills, too, is able to leverage a single-user interface with unified access to patient images and information stored in all of AMIC's customers' legacy systems.
Laurie Lafleur, director of product marketing at Intelerad, says its data show radiologists see 20% or more in productivity gains and are able to offer higher-quality results when they don't have to bounce between systems to read. InteleOne's XE analytics package also can drive continuous improvement and inform clinical and business decisions that help to improve workflow, Lafleur says.
For example, when a radiologist clicks on a case, a template is automatically opened for that particular type of study, whether it is an MRI for the left knee, a DEXA scan of the heel, or another type of study. Mills says the feature makes it easy for him to check the components he needs to look for in each part of the knee or heel. Combined with dictation from Nuance's PowerScribe360, it makes reading and reporting scans a more efficient process, he says.
Getting STATs read and reports out the door as quickly as possible was a significant workflow challenge for AMIC. In an effort to remedy the situation, several of the group's radiologists asked the IT department to create a separate worklist for urgent requests.
"Our IT department created the STAT Control Module, and what it does is monitor our own internal website for the different sites we cover," Mills says. "It organizes STAT requests into a separate module screen on our PACS workstations. This allows us to prioritize STATs when they are submitted from all our sites. The radiologists who are reading can click on that STAT on the worklist and take ownership of it."