The world of radiology sees frequent use of the term “integration,” but this term can easily mean many things to different people. When used in conjunction with describing implementation of a RIS+PACS platform at a hospital, it demands we clearly define our expectations up front to minimize the challenges and disruption that can accompany integrating a new RIS+PACS platform into our workflow.
In the current environment we see that RIS, PACS and capture modalities are separate yet complementary entities that are really more bundled than they are integrated. We all know that RIS is a separate platform that is slowly being absorbed into the PACS or into EMR. PACS joins together both clinical information systems with the organization’s IT network and a successful implementation should have a very positive impact upon workflow.
Radiologists need to read images and dictate their findings, and being able to easily integrate images directly into the report via the RIS will help improve workflow. Integrating images into a RIS means that vendors will need to put more emphasis on developing improved RIS technology to provide higher-end throughput. By improving the RIS interface to better address workflow issues, a single-platform vendor will have a big advantage over another third party.
In the contemporary radiology department, knowledge is everything. This knowledge goes outside the walls of the healthcare facility with the advent of patient portals that allow patients to electronically access, store and share their medical images. With a well-integrated RIS+PACS platform, radiology professionals expect amplified clinical, business and IT benefits that include:
- Greater value and insight resulting from the generation of clinically-rich reports
- Improved workflow
- Greater cost control and a streamlined data flow
- Increased patient engagement and satisfaction with an intuitive patient portal; and
- The ability to foster clinical collaboration without boundaries.
To achieve this, we need to improve upon the current integration process by providing a system or single platform for the reading and distribution workflow. Successful RIS+PACS vendors are making this a key focus of future product development activities.
Another issue to consider is that radiologists continue to change how they work. We are now seeing more “point of care” imaging where you have physicians creating medical images by capturing images with handheld ultrasound or endoscopy units. These physicians (not radiologists) are creating a workflow that is “orderless” or “non-scheduled”—and the organization will need to accommodate this workflow by supporting the input of these images into the PACS. Point-of care imaging is an integration point that we will need to see in future development efforts since it is clearly on the rise.
How is your organization handling the integration of RIS+PACS?
What will your RIS+PACS platform look like in the next 10 years?
Makori Arnon, MD, MHA, is the Director of Imaging Informatics at Clalit Health Services in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is also a member of Carestream’s Advisory Group, a collective of medical professionals that advises the company on healthcare IT trends.