Portable Imaging Designed For the Technologist

Editors Note: We asked  Betty Ward, Imaging Director, Roper St. Francis Healthcare, to share her feedback on Carestream’s prototype DRX-Revolution Mobile X-ray System, which is not yet commercially available.  Ward can also be seen in the video below following her preview of the system at AHRA. 

Portable imaging is a critical piece of how we care for patients at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. In five of our twelve facilities, 70 diagnostic radiologic technologists perform approximately 22,400 mobile exams a year in environments ranging from the ICU and ER to the OR and hospital floor—often for our most acute patients.

So at the annual meeting of AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management this past summer, I welcomed the opportunity to preview and provide feedback on the works-in-progress Carestream DRX-Revolution Mobile X-Ray System, which is not yet commercially available.

What immediately struck me was how this system could eliminate some portable imaging pain points for my technologists.

Staff in imaging departments can sometimes feel like we are adapting the way we work to the requirements of the portable unit. It’s clear that technologist input about our needs and workflow guided the development of the DRX-Revolution.  For example, a collapsible column is intended to solve the maneuverability problem that makes it difficult to navigate busy hallways for my “vertically-challenged” techs. An extended tube head reach could help my technologists get the positioning they need even with bedside monitors in the way.

I’m always concerned about the tethers on other DR detectors being pulled or acting as an infection agent as it goes from room to room. I was really pleased to see that the Carestream mobile x-ray system is designed to use the same wireless DRX detector as its other DR systems.

And the clearest sign that technologist feedback has manifested itself in this system? Little extras like built-in bins for gloves, places for wipes and even storage for detectors – they’ve thought of everything.

Radiology Trends from AHRA 2011

AHRA is always a valuable opportunity for us to hear from the radiology community and learn what’s really important to hospitals and radiology administrators.  In addition to meetings with customers, we talked with representatives from some of the key radiology publications to understand what hot topics were on their radar.  Lisa Fratt, Health Imaging & IT, and Cat Vasko, Imagingbiz, shared their impressions of the major trends this year:

  • Healthcare reform and how hospitals can get ahead of the curve
  • Regulatory and reimbursement changes and how facilities can adapt
  • Imaging department and marketing efficiencies

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVufuaEMRQ&feature=relmfu]

Were you at AHRA?  What was the most important thing that you saw?

Five Reasons to Step Out of the Shadows and Into Cloud Computing

The cloud computing sessions at AHRA have been a hot ticket. Attendees are eager to hear opinion from peers, learn more about medical imaging opportunities and determine if it is time to stop dodging the clouds.

For many healthcare facilities the hesitancy to embrace cloud computing is driven by concerns about patient privacy and standards compliance and complacency with current systems. But some early adopter hospitals are seeing success, and cloud computing demand is poised to reach its tipping point by 2015.

Let’s look at one early adopter hospital – Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. The 591-bed university-affiliated medical center recently made the decision to take a walk in the clouds and purchased cloud-based RIS/PACS and vendor-neutral archiving services.

Maureen Gaffney, R.N., RPAC, CMIO,Winthrop University Hospital shares five reasons why her facility thought it was time to move to the cloud:

  1. Anywhere Access – Rapid access to patient data and images along with advanced reading and viewing tools for onsite or remote radiologists and clinicians was crucial for Winthrop’s growing outpatient facilities and physician network.
  2. Reliable Archive – Complying with continuous health reform, preparing for meaningful use and accountable care organization regulations means EMR and imaging data storage needs an uptime guarantee.
  3. Diversified Disaster Recovery – Moving away from the redundant data center approach requires a cost-effective option to protect assets.
  4. Predictable Expenditures – The pay-per-study usage charge is a safety net for controlling operational costs because capital expenditure is not tied up in investments in building, maintaining and upgrading a large internal IT infrastructure.
  5. Flexible Growth – RIS/PACS cloud-based services flex as priorities change and provide a strategy for growth when a healthcare facility grows rapidly and brings on more specialties, etc.

Sound like the needs of your organization? If you determine cloud-based services are the right fit for your organization, be sure to look for a vendor partner who understands the healthcare environment and has experience managing and protecting medical imaging studies in the cloud. The best cloud-based services vendor understands that cloud-based services are not so much about what you need the system to do today, but what it needs to do in the future.

Ms. Gaffney is a member of Carestream’s advisory board.


Professional Organizations: Staying the Course in Tough Times

Robert Salmon

Robert Salmon, Carestream Health

At the opening session of the annual meeting of AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management, Edward J. Cronin, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of AHRA warned some of his comments would address a very serious situation facing AHRA.

The thoughts running through the heads of hundreds of members in attendance probably included wondering what somber, scandalous or now emerging crisis would soon be revealed. You could sense the quiet pall that descended quickly upon the assembled group as many of us pondered where his ominous remarks would likely lead.

While certainly not scandalous, clearly a bit somber—and not yet a nasty crisis but could easily become one—Mr. Cronin disclosed a disturbing trend facing AHRA: Tight budgets and scarce dollars for professional education and development are contributing to a decline in AHRA membership.

AHRA is not unique in facing a downward trending membership spiral—as many other professional healthcare organizations are challenged to simply maintain let alone grow their membership ranks. The fact remains that the impact of too few dollars and too many mouths to feed nearly always translates into fewer resources for professional development no matter where you work. In fact, as healthcare organizations in particular face enormous budget challenges not previously seen, professional development is often the very first to go in trying to manage an ever dwindling pool of resources in world that only seems to get more expensive overnight.

The many benefits to membership in AHRA and other well-run medical imaging and healthcare IT organizations unquestionably contribute to the ongoing and much needed development of professional leadership. Participating members and sponsoring organizations are exposed to new technologies; presented with opportunities for continuous professional improvement through education; and given access to real-life examples of leadership, innovation and successful financial management that can be hard to acquire during the day-to-day challenges that come with providing high-quality patient care or developing the technology and the products that make that all possible.

AHRA and other organizations are rising to the challenge by developing grass roots plans to grow membership; reaching out to volunteer and sponsorship networks to boost visibility and generate interest; and by ensuring that the value offered to their members continues to improve. With much hard work, success may be attainable.

But at the same time, as each of us and the organizations we serve look at budgets, resources, career demands and the need to continuously improve as a professional to excel at what we do—I feel certain that the question in tough financial times is not “Can I afford to support this organization”—and the smarter question to consider is: Can I afford not to?”

AHRA will be featuring this as well as other updates of the annual meeting on the organization’s blog.  Likewise, we’ll continue to reflect upon what we’re learning throughout the week here and on our other online channels. 

Will the Future of Imaging Include the EMR?

One of the most prominent topics since last year’s AHRA has been the meaningful use (MU) of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).  In the past year it has been established that radiology qualifies to participate in the incentives, but for radiology the real MU opportunity is about more than just incentives.

Stage 1 requirements are clear:  your RIS vendor can either receive modular or complete certification as an EMR, and by taking advantage of exclusions the radiologist can qualify as an eligible professional.

A new dimension was introduced to the ONC HIT Policy Committee Meaningful Use Workgroup and anticipation is shifting towards Stage 2 and the incorporation of imaging data into the EMR.  This signals a critical acknowledgement that imaging data is relevant to physicians outside of the practice of radiology and opportunity to promote the role that radiology plays in providing better patient care.

Keith Dreyer, DO, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, introduced the concept of Enterprise Imaging at the May ONC meeting focusing on MU for specialties and the implications of including imaging data in the EMR are significant for radiology.

Consider the emergence of zero-footprint technology and an increase in the use of mobile devices in healthcare.  This trend sets the stage to allow images to integrate into the EMR and give physicians access to data across the hospital.  The incorporation of imaging data into meaningful use requirements will reinforce the importance of closed-loop communication between specialties and would go even farther to improve consistency in patient care – at the same time increasing the value of radiology.

How is your facility currently incorporating images into its reporting?

Need to brush up on Meaningful Use for radiology?  Listen to Dr. Dreyer in a series of podcasts explaining how radiologists can qualify for incentives. Part I, Part II, and Part III