As radiology groups continue to grow their reading networks across multiple unaffiliated hospitals, imaging centers, and physician offices, the challenge of providing quality service across an increasingly complex environment is becoming more acute. Many radiology groups who have been opportunistic and have grown quickly find themselves interpreting out of multiple PACS and Voice Recognition platforms. At the same time, their referring hospitals, imaging centers, and physician offices continue to ask radiology groups to provide subspecialty reads 24/7 while ensuring that the content of these interpretations is uniform in structure.
The result of this rapidly evolving landscape is that a radiologist often has to swivel between several platforms, sometimes study-by-study, within the same shift. They must interact with facility EMRs to see the patient history as well as other advanced imaging systems and toolsets. There is a growing list of software platforms that radiologists must interact within real-time to perform interpretations.
Unfortunately, all these factors place growing radiology groups in a compromised position and place radiologists in a very inefficient environment leading to increased stress and low job satisfaction. Many radiology groups are unable to perform the desired high percentage of subspecialty interpretations.
By: Stephen Willis, CTO, Canopy Partners
The Answer: Unified Radiology Platform
The technical answer to this conundrum is the Unified Radiology Platform (URP). In a URP, all studies are read from a single read station containing one Worklist, one PACS, and a single Voice Recognition platform. Sometimes the URP includes a single HL7 interface engine for normalizing exam codes between disparate referring facilities.
Many radiology groups understand the benefits of a URP initiative but don’t move past the vision stage of the project because hospital partners do not understand the benefits or support the initiative. Imaging centers and physician offices are often quite prepared to have their studies interpreted in outside platforms, but hospitals can provide quite a challenge when being asked to send their data outside of their walls for interpretation.
Canopy Partners has helped radiology groups across the country implement URPs and convince their hospital partners to say YES.
We often recommend the following general steps for presenting the business case to hospital and imaging center partners and getting to YES:
- Align your group around the benefits of a URP. If the radiology group hasn’t been brought into the initiative, it’s DOA. Ensure your entire group knows why the URP will work and understands that it’s a long process demanding significant investment. There are no quick, inexpensive overnight fixes.
- Speak executive to executive, not radiology group to hospital IT department. Hospital IT departments are quite overburdened and can often barely see beyond the EMR’s needs. Get permission from the executive staff (CEO, CTO, CMIO, CMO, and Radiology Department Director). Have the leaders direct IT toward alignment with the organization’s goals.
- Show the hospital executives how this investment made by the radiology group will increase the quality of work the hospital will receive from radiologists.
- Align your initiative with the hospital’s stated goals wherever possible. Hospitals want fewer days in beds. The URP can help. Hospitals want shorter TAT on certain exams. The URP can help. Hospitals want fewer unnecessary follow-up exams. The URP can help there too.
- Start with smaller hospitals to get a working model in place. Then approach the larger hospitals with proof of concept in hand.
- Bring experts to the conversation. Hospitals often want to hear from those who have done it and made it work in organizations like theirs.
- Remind hospitals that allowing the radiology group to control front-end interpretation and resulting systems can often save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Sometimes millions.
- Come prepared to speak to the level of effort that will be required of the hospital to create a live URP.
- Ensure the hospital that HIPAA Security is always top-of-mind and that the radiology group intends to invest appropriately in that arena.