Removing Tunnel Vision from Enterprise Imaging
By Karen Holzberger
I find the evolution of technology to be fascinating. Just think about music. Fifteen years ago, CDs were the most popular way to access music. Now you can listen to music anywhere, instantaneously, from tiny devices. The population has universally embraced the change. Why has accepting change in healthcare been so slow and difficult?
I’m not saying we all need to be on the bleeding edge of innovation, but it’s important to remove the tunnel vision and recognize advances not just in diagnostic medicine or medical research, but also in health IT innovations that make things faster, easier, and less costly.
I was surprised when I read a recent report on enterprise imaging that their research and results was limited only to organizations with a vendor-neutral archive (VNA) or universal viewer (UV) technologies.
The need to access and store medical images has been the most common demand of radiology departments for decades, but to think that in 2016 enterprise imaging is only done with these two approaches – it’s like taking a Polaroid camera to the beach and waiting a week for the film to be developed.
Don’t get me wrong. This report got it half right, but VNA and UV solutions don’t fit the needs of every organization, and that can lead people down the wrong path. If healthcare facilities are going to succeed in advancing the quality of patient care, then it is time to accept new and nimble health IT solutions for enterprise imaging today that bring patient images to people’s fingertips as swiftly and securely as the cloud delivers your favorite song.
Over the last few years, cloud-based image exchanges have gained popularity as an option for enterprise imaging. A HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey showed that 83 percent of healthcare organizations used cloud-based apps in 2014. While this simpler approach is not the same as a VNA, it allows facilities to achieve the same overall goals, often more efficiently. Facilities can be up and running on an image exchange in as little as two weeks and have central access to all necessary images via the cloud – anywhere, anytime.
VNAs are one of the oldest imaging technologies. When introduced, they finally allowed healthcare sites to collect data from all departments in one location and exchange that information with a broader audience. But what about patient care happening elsewhere and other types of patient data?
Today, it’s critical that facilities share information with other facilities, not just other departments within the same building. In addition, the shift to value-based care means facilities require quick, efficient technology that follows patients across a continuum, which takes more than just sending an image from point A to point B. Imagine only being able to listen to your favorite song on your iPod and not on any of your other connected devices.
VNAs can take up to two years to implement and can be horribly expensive. Further, since they don’t encapsulate all of a patient’s data, sites need to use them in connection with other solutions, like a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), to have a complete enterprise imaging strategy.
Cloud-based imaging, on the other hand, provides more than the seamless sharing of images. It delivers real value and efficiencies like capturing and sharing all relevant patient data, just like how the cloud allows you to access your music, videos, and playlists effortlessly between your phone, tablet and laptop. Which is why I’m perplexed that society openly welcomes this technology in our lives, but accepting technology that can make life-saving differences has proved to be so challenging.
The time to embrace is now. If not, I fear that we will only continue set back an industry that so desperately needs to move forward.
Karen Holzberger is VP/GM for diagnostics at Nuance of Burlington, MA.