As an IT professional with over 30 years in the business and working on products from the early EMRs to Imaging and analytics, it seems to me that the pace of change over the last 3-5 years is much faster than the previous 5-10 years. The technology that we use in our personal and professional lives has changed drastically with faster, better processors, higher resolution and better cameras on our phones, wearables that send data to the cloud with an app for everything. Today’s fast-paced, social media connected world is much different than the world land lines, newspapers and text messaging so many of us grew up with.
And the healthcare landscape as we knew it is also changing rapidly. With new healthcare regulations, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), partnerships and start-ups are changing the industry very quickly. We saw a record number of M&A activities in 2015 and that is continuing into 2016. IBM acquired Merge and Truven, Lexmark sold its IT products to Apex Technology of China and PAG Asia Capital, McKesson announced that it will spin off some of its IT businesses into a partnership with Change Healthcare and Siemens did the same with its healthcare division when it became Siemens Healthineers. VC funding for Healthcare IT companies is off to an impressive start in 2016 with the most funding going into wearables ($260 million), data analytics ($197 million) and telemedicine companies ($171 million).
Healthcare organizations are no stranger to this M&A activity. Every week there is news about hospitals, clinics and physician practices being acquired by larger organizations. Today, businesses must be agile and ready to learn and adapt to succeed in this fast-based environment.
So is it time that we change how we talk about imaging systems? Is it time for the terms RIS and PACS to go the way of film and typewriters? We hear the term “enterprise imaging” used frequently but what does that really mean? I’d like to propose this definition:
Enterprise Imaging includes the products and services that enable imaging providers to seamlessly perform all the tasks in the wing-to-wing imaging pathway, from pre-exam to reading to reporting to archiving, for one or multiple facilities. It allows other healthcare providers and patients to access images and image related data and allows organizations and departments to perform clinical, operational and financial analytics throughout the entire pathway.
If you agree that this definition describes what happens in today’s world, then it is important that we focus on the capabilities that deliver an efficient workflow, the tools required to view or visualize images and the long term storage and retrieval or archiving of images. All of this needs to enable collaboration between providers and patients, and provide the analytics that help us measure, predict, direct work and improve care.
To reach these ends, customers and healthcare providers must look for standards based, interoperable systems that can help to enhance productivity and improve patient care. It makes sense that a complete, integrated solution can provide the best technology, the best communication and the best workflow with the least amount of effort on the part of the provider.
As providers consolidate, competition for IT project funds increases. While consolidating systems can be cost effective and is likely beneficial for patient care, resources and budgets may limit the speed and order in which systems are consolidated. From an imaging perspective, consolidating the “view” of imaging data and providing access across the enterprise is not only important to the quality of care, it can help reduce the cost of care by eliminating duplicate studies. Organizations need to look for systems that enable this sharing of data while still operating separate systems. One way to do that is through the implementation of a VNA. Another way is to be sure your imaging system can stream data in real time from any system DICOM or XDS compliant system.
We, as healthcare professionals, are all in the business of patient care. Whether we provide direct care or we work to provide the products that caregivers use, we all touch the lives of people who trust us to provide the best care possible. Enterprise Imaging solutions will help us provide that care.
 IBM Press release, April 8, 2016; http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/49474.wss
 New York Time, April 20, 2016; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/business/dealbook/lexmark-apex-pag-asia.html?_r=0
 Mercom Capital Group; April 13, 2016: http://mercomcapital.com/healthcare-it-has-strong-first-quarter-with-$1.4-billion-in-vc-funding-reports-mercom-capital-group