The delivery of radiology services is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Traditionally, providers of imaging services used a fee-for-procedure model that focused on increasing volume and decreasing costs to maintain or improve profitability. Certainly, quality of care and patient outcomes were desired goals, but they were not prioritized or tracked.

Meaningful-use (MU) requirements create a dramatic shift as imaging services providers begin measuring and delivering high-quality care and tracking patient outcomes. Stage 1 sets the stage for data capture; Stage 2 sets rules for data sharing and access to information; and Stage 3 is expected to address decision support and outcomes.

This represents a major paradigm shift for healthcare IT systems and their users. Previous-generation departmental systems, such as RIS (radiology information systems) and PACS (picture archiving and communication systems), collected and shared specific types of data. Industry standards such as HL7, IHE and DICOM allowed these systems to communicate some data, but these departmental solutions were not designed to support fully integrated information exchange that creates a comprehensive view of each patient.

RIS systems can play an integral role in helping imaging services providers meet meaningful-use requirements by providing fully featured reporting; embedded voice recognition; ICD-10 (required by October 2014); scheduling workflow that satisfies unique radiology requirements for contrast and specialty exams; and support for all breast imaging modalities, as well as MQSA-required patient communication and reporting tools.

Healthcare providers will also benefit from RIS systems that deliver these advanced features:

  • Support for structured data equips a certified RIS to share data with a certified EMR to ensure meaningful data is appropriately stored and shared and meets meaningful-use requirements.
  • Structured reporting that uses standardized wording not only makes a diagnosis easier to understand, it also enhances the ability for research facilities nationwide to evaluate outcome data as Stage 3 criteria become established.
  • The American College of Radiology is creating an order-entry decision-support database that provides guidelines for determining specific imaging exams deemed to be medically appropriate for a patient’s symptoms or diagnosis. MU-certified RIS platforms are available that support user-defined decision-support rules so each facility can set its own standards for the “appropriateness” of an imaging exam. These platforms can be adapted to support ACR criteria when it is released. An RIS can also support standardized patient treatment protocols, which will lead to more consistent patient care and provide data for tracking patient outcomes.
  • Real-time dashboards can display operations and offer analytics tools that allow providers to anticipate problems and take corrective action before they occur. This ultimately can lead to better patient care, while simultaneously enhancing efficiencies that can boost revenues.

In order to satisfy the needs of referring physicians and patients, healthcare providers also need new tools to facilitate communication of imaging studies and reports with both referring physicians and patients. Independent image viewers can deliver convenient access to authorized clinicians with workstations or mobile devices such as iPads. Secure patient portals can be posted on healthcare providers’ websites to allow patients to download and share imaging studies and reports with specialists and other physicians. This empowers patients to obtain second opinions and maintain records of their exams and diagnoses.

Healthcare suppliers have embraced the healthcare IT needs of a patient-centric model and are offering information systems that share data more effectively and also collect, track, report and provide management tools for patient care issues. Fortunately, there are also new features to track and display real-time business dynamics, so managers can help ensure both patient satisfaction and profitability.

About the Author

Doug Rufer is North America RIS business manager, Carestream Health. For more on Carestream Health: 

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