Defining Enterprise Imaging

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One of the buzz words circulating in today’s healthcare industry is Enterprise Imaging. But what does that really mean?  When you talk to radiology administrators, VPs of imaging services and CIOs, you get many different definitions of Enterprise Imaging.

As I’ve come to see it, Enterprise Imaging has many facets. First and probably the simplest approach would be to call it the management of all DICOM images generated by a radiology department. I would argue that this is a pretty narrow view and that there is a more expansive definition.

Enterprise Imaging encompasses the reading, storing, viewing and management of all images and imaging data generated by all providers across all the departments of all the organizations in the healthcare system. This includes images generated by radiology, cardiology, GI, dermatology, and other imaging specialties as well as visible light images from areas such as wound care, the ED, images acquired by patients for virtual visits and so on.

That is a lot to absorb! It’s easy to see that the definition of “Enterprise Imaging” quickly becomes complex. So let’s break it down into its components.

One can argue that there are 4 basic components or ingredients needed for a complete enterprise imaging strategy: visualization, workflow, collaboration and archiving. Whether an organization is a small regional or community hospital or a large, multi-facility network, each of these pieces is critical and delivers clear benefits to the challenges that healthcare providers are facing. In case you are not thinking about Enterprise Imaging this way, let me provide more context.

The visualization ingredient

Visualization solutions display images from multiple specialties for reading and reporting on a single viewer. Common to the viewer are standard tools such as MIP/MPR, advanced clinical applications such as those used for vessel analysis and oncology quantification, advanced cardiology tools and breast imaging capabilities that includes the ability to read 3D breast images. The solution will also have intelligent tools for efficient and productive reading. Examples of intelligent tools include:

  • predictive hanging protocols that learn your preferences as you go
  • automatic display of historical images that reside in the different systems deployed across the enterprise
  • workload management tools to help to direct images to the right specialist
  • the ability to display clinical content that helps to enhance diagnostic confidence

And all of these should reside on a single desktop!

The workflow ingredient

Workflow solutions provide configurable, patient-centric workflows that enable data to move with the patient on their care journey. They provide tools that can be used across the enterprise to streamline the pre-exam and post-exam workflow, with patient notifications that help to enhance the quality of the exam performed and ultimately the final report.

The archive ingredient

Archiving solutions, also known as vendor neutral archives or VNAs, consolidate images from multiple systems and multiple imaging specialties for rapid retrieval and display. They include intelligent image and content management capabilities, enable the acquisition and storage of non-DICOM images in clinical settings such as wound care clinics and the emergency department and include a secure viewing tool with role based access. The viewing tool provides referring physicians and other caregivers with a single point of access to the patient’s imaging information no matter where they are located. The can be done through connectivity with an EMR or by using the viewing application directly on a desktop, laptop or other mobile device. By providing broad access, they can help clinicians with treatment planning and potentially reduce the need for duplicate imaging exams just because data is not available.

The collaboration ingredient

Collaboration solutions enable specialists like radiologists and cardiologist to share images and insights with providers in and outside of the care delivery network. They enable consultation between specialists by allowing images and insight to be shared with providers within your network, across the community or across the globe.

While many industry analysts are espousing the benefits of one or more of these ingredients, I believe it’s time to focus on the whole. It’s time to enable efficient, productive and truly collaborative care across the enterprise.

So…when you think of Enterprise Imaging from now on, don’t you want it all?


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