The information-driven medical imaging platform is being leveraged by several medical imaging executives to serve as a growth roadmap for their respective healthcare organizations.

Medical imaging is a data-dependent industry. Today, we are witnessing it to branch out decisively into multi-departmental, enterprise-wide imaging. Imaging services from radiology, cardiology and an ever-increasing number of other specialties are growing in breadth and depth, catering to healthcare organizations that are becoming not only larger and more complex, but also more accountable to their payer partners and the patient population that they serve.

To play a bigger part in the triple aim of healthcare, by contributing to improved population outcomes, enhanced patient experience and reduced total cost of care, medical imaging will need to adopt a more information-driven consultative approach. For this, there is a growing trend toward recognizing the importance of modern IT platforms to upgrade or replace their incumbent, often too isolated, departmental IT systems. These clinical, operational, and financial efforts are starting to intertwine and, ultimately, they will converge to give rise to the era of information-driven health imaging and the imaging health record (IHR).

Roadmap for Constructing an Enterprise Imaging Strategy

Imaging informatics is being leveraged in several healthcare organizations to serve the growth roadmap, and value-based initiatives are being planned for the next few years. Several organizations have begun to capitalize on their platform investment and their relationship with eHealth and digital imaging solution providers, such as Agfa HealthCare, to attain benefits from imaging strategies. They have implemented Agfa Enterprise Imaging (EI) platform across various departments and have gained results that span across clinical, operational, and financial fronts.

As part of an effort to harmonize and standardize their health IT ecosystem, organizations are working to consolidate their IT vendor relationships to a few select strategic partnerships. This effort, usually driven by IT, seeks to ultimately elevate two vendors to a partner-based relationship, one for their enterprise EHR and the other for their enterprise imaging.

In trying to become more cost efficient, healthcare organizations need to pursue a mixed bag of tactical objectives, such as doing more with less, but also a number of strategic initiatives for the mid to long term. In this context, there is a clear realization today that new workflows must be devised and fine-tuned to optimize the buy-in and contribution of different stakeholders at the departmental and enterprise levels.

Today, the third-generation enterprise imaging platforms (PACS) are expanding the reach of imaging IT, providing access to images and associated tools to any relevant and credentialed stakeholder who can benefit from them. The new enterprise imaging (EI) technology will allow radiologists to work on the same platform as the ordering doctors, collaboratively. The synergies work both ways, since radiologists also often benefit from having easy access to more contextual information about their patients. While diagnosticians will still rely on their viewing workstations for their interpretations, the ability to see the timeline of patient care will help drive multi-disciplinary collaboration.

The EI platform is able to provide several benefits to healthcare organizations including ubiquitous but controlled image access to enable a multi-specialty, care-centric approach to image information; liquidity of image data to foster patient engagement; leverage of imaging analytics to advance clinical leadership; becoming an IT-as-a-Service provider; optimizing IT governance structure for enterprise imaging; and securing a proactive role for imaging in population health efforts.

Single-Source Procurement for EI Transition

Today, a single vendor may provide the best-of-breed components that comprise a full-fledged image-management solution. A single-vendor solution means fewer systems are vulnerable to data leaks or exposed to security breaches. It means more IT resources can be dedicated to one comprehensive IT system to ensure constant monitoring, hardened security, simplified upgrading, operational excellence, and continuity of care.

The benefits of single-vendor, partner-oriented approach is multi-f0old:

  • Cost containment owing to low total cost of ownership of deconstructed PACS under a single-vendor approach as compared to multi-vendor approach
  • Alignment with strategic objectives to elevate the vendor/provider relationship that acts as a conduit toward contributing actively to institutional outcomes
  • Continuous engagement of enterprise stakeholders
  • Enhanced resolution of potential IT issues by avoiding finger-pointing between different vendors
  • Reduced implementation complexity, roll-out, and training to benefit the management
  • Improved data ownership and leveragability, avoidance of the deconstructed PACS caveats, and maximized workflow customization potential

Future of Health Imaging

In the next 10 years, healthcare will be able to deliver a leaner, more value-focused environment, where medical imaging will have proven its role in achieving desired health system-level outcomes, from treating patients remotely to getting them out of acute care settings sooner, while optimizing the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of care pathways through appropriate and definitive imaging.

Clinical scenario. By 2027, machine intelligence will cross the chasm, wherein health imaging specialists will be backed by big datasets of well curated and documented retrospective patient cases. Active in the background, machine learning algorithms will be tapping into the datasets to outline a few predictable scenarios based on thousands of similar and identical previous cases.

Personalized imaging will be the new normal. On their holographic avatars, the imaging experts will be able to see some precise ties between patients' genes, their phenotypic changes, and the corresponding cellular behavior. Radiomics will be converging steadily with genomics and proteomics, boosting the personalization of study interpretations for the benefit of individual patients. Imaging will be an intrinsic part of the move to precision medicine.

Operational scenario. In the operations department, health imaging managers and administrators will be able to track actual metrics against their targets across each of the key performance indicators for productivity, quality, and outcomes that they have set for their services. The Internet of Things (IoT) will make its way into the imaging department. Sensors tied to equipment and software will allow to measure and monitor almost every process automatically and in real time, feeding into the analytics engine. With this trusted data on hand, the operational executives will be capable of steering the needle on their KPIs, not just reactively, but proactively.

Financial scenario. On the side of finance, health imaging payers and shareholders will be back in their comfort zones by the next 10 years. Health system leadership will be able to fund and invest more confidently in their imaging enterprise. Their income will be a mixed bag of fee-for-service reimbursements, episode-of-care payments, and revenue from the health plan that they launched when they became a payer-provider entity. By monitoring the health data flowing from their covered population, they will accomplish a lot more outside of acute care settings, which will be made possible by the integrated clinical platform.

In a not-so-distant future, medical imaging will be much less empirical, and almost a completely value-based and information-driven discipline. In the enterprise cockpit, decision makers will be able to base virtually every clinical, operational, and financial decision on robust and integrated datasets in gearing their imaging service line.

However, there is quite a big leap to make for the imaging discipline in going from merely creating and digesting imaging studies, to actually sharing the enterprise driver's seat with actionable data it produces itself – that is, to evolve from a data-rich discipline to an information-rich one. And, in order to evolve into the value-based, patient-first ecosystem that our times demand, dedication to finding new, effective models is required of all stakeholders – health providers, vendors, and patients.

Based on a Frost & Sullivan White Paper


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