Imaging strategy and digital mastery in health informatics –
How you manage imagery says a lot about your organization’s digital maturity
The ongoing digitalization of the industry continues to disrupt business and service models across all sectors. Even though healthcare in the United States has traditionally lagged behind other fields in technological adaptation, there has always been a significant and far-reaching change in the way healthcare operates, which is driven by the IT infrastructure.
From the slow and often frustrating rise of the EHR to the lightning-fast deployment of telehealth services in a crisis, operational capability is increasingly influenced by digital literacy.
Exploring one aspect of this dynamic highlights the broader global trend: medical imaging strategy is a particularly relevant example of the new paradigm in action.
You can trace the profound value and impact of medical imaging back to the late 1800s and the advent of X-rays. Computers multiplied this utility exponentially. At the dawn of the digital age, healthcare professionals were actively innovating and embracing digital technologies to better harness the power of imaging. In 1982, even before the launch of the World Wide Web, the first Electronic Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) were in the works!
Since then, many systems “have been developed with the goal of providing cost-effective storage, rapid image retrieval, access to acquired images with multiple modalities, and simultaneous access across multiple sites.” In short, modern imaging systems are an integral part of modern healthcare.
Over the years, in order to meet the needs of emerging or expanding diagnostic departments for specialized workflows (e.g., radiology, cardiology, mammography, pathology, dermatology, etc.), many healthcare IT implementations simply added new imaging technologies on a case-by-case basis. These ad hoc practices have resulted in balkanized imagery data silos, unnecessary complexity, and disjointed imagery ecosystems.
Inconsistent technologies and workflows wreak havoc on IT stability and organizational productivity. Not to mention the cost of maintaining fragmented imaging systems, clinicians must manage an increasing amount of medical imaging data from a range of devices in diverse care settings using a myriad of different applications and processes. This “Frankenimaging” problem affects the ability to integrate, user satisfaction, and ultimately the patient experience…but it can be fixed.
Enterprise imaging in healthcare
Adopting an enterprise imaging strategy can mitigate these issues and improve system productivity, as well as the clinician and patient experience. Just as the EHR has evolved as the connected digital platform for patient records and the flow of critical data in a healthcare system, imaging data management must also mature to meet changing standards and modalities. Enterprise imaging strategy must be geared towards future-proofing the delivery of medical imaging securely through the right channel, with the right context, at the right time, without friction.
Principles of enterprise imaging strategies ideally optimize data management security and consistency, centralize and standardize image capture, collection, formatting, storage, exchange and analysis capabilities across the organization – and integrate with electronic health records. Depending on the size, scope, and service area of the healthcare organization, enterprise imaging strategy objectives may include:
– Manage high volume varieties of internal imaging requirements as well as high demand external referrals and emerging services
– Decommissioning unsustainable departmental imaging data silos and inextensible legacy imaging systems
– Evaluate new architectures and technology enhancements specific to specialty imaging (e.g., breast, cardiac, vascular, etc.)
– Analyze modernization approaches (e.g., cloud-native versus hybrid infrastructure), integration requirements, and technology costs
– Leverage the use of cloud technologies, enhanced clinical analytics and AI on imaging data to give healthcare teams a more holistic view of patients
– Predicting the impact of value-based care and the convergence of clinical imaging with virtual and home care
– Positioning the organization to deliver an enhanced clinical team experience and the ability to respond to changing consumer demands
Today, a desirable enterprise imaging strategy can serve as a solid roadmap to digital mastery for a healthcare organization. Formulating an effective clinical governance structure for the process is essential to ensure that stakeholder needs are met, capacities remain intact and expectations are managed.
When executed wisely, organizations can expect to achieve a simplified architecture for their digital imaging environment and a better experience for clinicians, as well as improved security – and even cost savings.
These are excellent characteristics of digital maturity.
About Chris Jenkins
Chris Jenkins is a senior vice president at Healthlink Advisors, a healthcare consulting firm committed to improving clinical innovation, business systems, and IT strategy, delivery, and operations. Health care.