Written by Dhaval Shah and Shujah Das Gupta for Diagnostic Imaging (source).
Discussions at this year’s conference ranged from meaningful use requirements for electronic health records to radiology workflow improvements and the role of analytics. New market pressures were evident — the need to optimize workflows was felt strongly, considering the new provider-payer relationships and the shifting of greater accountability to caregivers.
Key themes from this year include workflow standardization, greater focus on quality outcomes, cutting down on unnecessary procedures, and optimally leveraging technology infrastructure for greater interoperability and collaboration with referring physicians.
Here, we’ve narrowed down four key takeaways that, in our opinion, would have far-reaching implications over the next two to three years.
1. The technology implications of meaningful use
Incidentally, with the recent extension of meaningful use Stage 2 from CMS, radiologists have a little more time to get their performance requirements in place. However, with Stage 3 deadlines also pushed back, it will be a while before clinical decision support is part of the radiology workflow, especially with the advent of data aggregation tools such as VNAs and Healthcare Image Exchanges.
The technology vendor community has been fairly proactive in addressing a number of reporting and analytics challenges arising from MU, benchmarking radiologist performance and using big data analytics in areas such as interventional radiology.
2. The need to optimize radiology workflows
Shared savings-driven programs like accountable care organizations (ACOs)and bundled payments will soon start to impact incentives, and also affect the way radiologists think about their processes and workflows. This has two different, though related facets: One is how imaging resources available to radiology teams in a geographically distributed environment can best be utilized to improve turnaround and improve patient satisfaction. The other is making improvements to imaging processes and workflows with the intent of improving care coordination and quality outcomes.
3. Radiation dose management
With a bigger focus on patient centric care, we saw enhancements on both the technology and workflow fronts that helped reduce the amount of radiation that patients were subject to while maintaining high levels of image quality. Many technology vendors showcased analytics capabilities that enabled physicians to look at historical patient and population level data and better assess the need for procedures especially when historical information is available.
Recent regulations in a few states have made it mandatory to include CT radiation dose for specific cases in patient records. If safety regulations are adopted by more states in the near future, we can expect dose management solutions, and especially the use of analytics, to gain prominence.
4. Leveraging cloud-based platforms
We saw a bigger push towards cloud-based solutions from both an infrastructure and software standpoint. Several leading healthcare tech vendors showcased VNA and PACS integrations along with platforms that supported diagnostic applications in the cloud.
Clinical facilities are increasingly looking toward the cloud as a solution for scalability and performance but there are still important questions which need to be addressed before we can see full cloud-based integration:
- - What key security considerations need to be addressed from an accessibility and data encryption standpoint before these solutions are considered acceptable?
- - Can vendors re-architect their solutions to ensure that they meet acceptable performance levels with the bandwidth constraints that exist today?
Addressing these two questions will be key to the adoption of these technologies going forward and will open up the doors to a host of other cloud-based initiatives in the near future.
For us, the key takeaway from this year’s event was the increasing importance of analytics, supplemented by emerging technologies like cloud-based services and integration of mobile devices with the existing healthcare workflows.