A Healthcare Merger, Acquisition, or Consolidation Doesn’t Have to Spell Disaster
By Sandra Lillie
Healthcare organizations are undergoing significant change to survive (and thrive) under new reimbursement models. Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations of healthcare organizations are rampant. It is not surprising that health IT is under tremendous pressure to advance information strategies in support of their organizations in its ever-changing portfolio of IT systems.
Much has been discussed about the changes in adoption of EHR technology during M&A activities and the amount of due diligence involved. But what about the 80 percent of healthcare data that is unstructured and resides mostly outside the EHR? Nowhere is this scenario more complicated than the unique space known as medical imaging, which makes up the lion’s share of unstructured data and is the most complex to manage.
Today, health IT often oversees multiple PACS solutions in support of radiology and cardiology for their institutions. The variety of systems grows exponentially with organizations that are involved in M&A transactions, leaving very complex support environments for IT departments when there are multiple differing proprietary PACS systems that require unique IT infrastructures.
Evolving this diverse portfolio into an enterprise strategy that can flexibly adapt to change is paramount for both acquiring and divesting organizations. Including a vendor neutral archive (VNA) as part of this strategy can:
Liberate. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to take back ownership of valuable clinical imaging content from PACS and make that information available in a patient-centered, aggregate manner to providers of care, where and when they need it, to deliver positive outcomes for patients.
Consolidate. In addition to the ability to consolidate and economize for storage, new hospitals and partners can more easily integrate into existing networks and gain access to systems. Fewer systems alleviate IT departmental stress. Additionally, when new hospitals are acquired, core VNA services are simply extended to the newly-acquired locations. New imaging studies from these locations are efficiently redirected to the VNA to aggregate all of the enterprise’s images centrally.
Aggregate. A VNA is intrinsic to the lifecycle management of the breadth of images associated with a patient. This can include radiology, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, wound care, endoscopy, and many more in a patient-centered association. VNAs support the ability to integrate studies directly into the patient’s record in the EHR. This benefits everyone – the radiologist, the referring physician, clinicians, and the patient – because it brings vital and comprehensive patient information to the care team.
Divest. Ownership of these images also provides improved capability to segment images to accompany the divestiture of a facility from the hospital organization.
VNA selection criteria should include not only technology, but also:
- Experience. Select a VNA technology with a proven track record of vendor neutrality across a wide range of imaging vendors.
- Diversity. Be sure the VNA product provides support for all images that exist outside of radiology and cardiology.
- Visualization. Review enterprise image viewers that enable the seamless visualization of images across care stakeholders and settings.
Adopting VNA as part of an M&A strategy can accelerate the ability to adapt to or lead change.
Sandra Lillie is industry manager of enterprise imaging for Lexmark Healthcare of Lexington, KY.