Cardiac Images in the EMR: Just a Click Away

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  Commercially available or homegrown software allows cardiologists to access images and videos within an EMR environment.

In 2007, the number of electronic medical record system installs jumped 22 percent over the previous year. Approximately one-third of U.S. physicians now have an EMR system, while cardiology EMR adoption is estimated to be 8 to 9 percent, ranking high among specialties, according to the Medical Records Institute.

That number is sure to blossom along with the growth in cardiac care needs and the national push for EMR adoption. With that, integrating cardiac information and images into the record for easy physician access is critical to quality healthcare.

Finding a solution to integrating cardiac images into the EMR can take a couple courses: Provide a representative image directly in the report or provide everything with a click. At Duke Health System in Durham, N.C., and St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y., they both wanted it the easiest way possible and went with the click.

Having it all

“We made a decision we wanted to have complete access to all of the image information. We did not want to put them in the electronic health record per se. We created a report and associated with that report a link that connects you to the images,” says James E. Tcheng, MD, professor of medicine and medical knowledge architect for Duke Health System.

Their clinical data repository contains data for nearly 3 million patients. Within the repository are 60 to 70 million individual records, from something as simple as a finger stick blood glucose lab result to a complete patient history. The hospital-wide EHR was custom-designed and implemented by Duke. On the cardiology end, they chose Philips Xcelera cardiovascular information system (CVIS) to collect patient reports and cardiac images. Radiology images are stored on a GE Healthcare Centricity PACS.

“We wanted to be able to access the text-base report [dictated reports or structured reports] relating to all the tests. We also wanted to be able to view the video. So we have created a system where we launch a separate viewer to view the images at any time we would want to do that. We do that inside the EHR so we don’t have to go searching for the patients to access their record,” says Tcheng. “It’s simply a click away.”

To launch the video, they use a web-based browser, a program they wrote internally. “By launching the separate application, physicians are able to see video, 15 to 30 frames per second video, which native Internet Explorer isn’t well designed to do,” says Tcheng.

The benefits of having the cardiac images available in the EMR most greatly impact the physician and the patient. “When you are trying to take care of the patient to make patient care decisions, you need all of the data available to you. And that is when you would work inside the electronic medical record,” says Tcheng.

He points out that workflow is changed at the level of decision making. “Most physicians in the cardiology sector when they are faced with a critical decision—for instance, revascularization or management of heart failure—they want to look at the study themselves, and based on that, want to make that next recommendation or decision.”

Two points of entry

Aside from having the integrated solution in the EMR, studies are available in a stand-alone solution, which Tcheng calls their parallel DICOM-compatible universe for echocardiography and cardiac cath lab. Using the Xcelera CVIS, physicians can easily access a lot of studies by modality for interpretation and reporting. “In essence, we have created parallel universes trying to marry the information that is returned to the environment that the physician finds himself or herself in for maximal efficiency,” says Tcheng. “It’s a matter of time and convenience which universe you work in.”

Smooth integration

St. Peter’s Hospital has integrated Lumedx cardiology EMRs with the hospital’s Siemens Medical Solutions hospital-wide EMR system. Stephen Cameron, RCIS, RCS, program director for cardiac and vascular, says Lumedx is “internally interfaced with the clinical information system. So if a physician logs in in-house, he has access to lab values, discharge summaries, physician consults and pharmacy information. He also gets cardiology, EKGs online, graphics and motion. We also have cath reports, and we also have the actual film online and in motion.”

Each year, the staff at St. Peter’s perform 3,000 cardiac catheterizations and