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Imaging in 2017: An evolution in value and standards

February 20, 2017
From the January 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Scott Galbari

The term “value” means different things to different people in medical imaging. Technologists define value through the quality of the medical images acquired in diagnostic procedures. Radiologists view it as a contribution to patient care through the interpretation of images. For referring clinicians, value is in the diagnostic quality and efficiency of the imaging services they receive. Patients see it in the timeliness of the imaging procedures as part of their treatments. CMIOs and executives, responsible for the efficiency, quality and overall business health of a diagnostic service, define it through clinical outcomes and productivity, reduced turnaround times and cost. IT staff is balancing these needs with accessibility, high availability and compliance with privacy and data security policies. With so many different interpretations, how does a health care enterprise define “the value of imaging?” And what will the future hold for “value” in 2017?

All of these perspectives help to define “imaging value,” but the focus is always getting the right data to the right people at the right time. Having all of the patient’s images from previous exams, as well as having the complete medical record available to the radiologist, significantly helps radiologists maximize their value when interpreting images. Likewise, sharing everything from the results of the interpretation (the diagnostic report, structured findings and key images) helps radiologists to maximize their value to the broader care team.

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As a result of the interpretation, the diagnostic report and associated key images must be made available to other care team members, typically in a platform outside of PACS where sharing data remains a challenge. However, the broader care team does not use the PACS system, which is where the radiologist completes his/her work, so the information needs to be distributed to others. This can only be accomplished via enhanced collaboration tools as well as interoperability between the PACS and the information systems.

Best practices for image exchange and sharing of information from medical image interpretations exist, but departments must demand technical platforms where interoperability is built-in by design rather than being an afterthought. The technical, clinical and business experts in health care organizations now understand and agree that true interoperability requires the exchange of image-related data that are relevant and contextual. As such, a solid contextual and semantic interoperability is the first and most fundamental requirement to deliver the value of imaging today.

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