Imaging Systems: Better Care with Improved Efficiencies

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon
 - Wexner
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus streamlined its imaging processes if patients are referred for radiology studies.
Source: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

If deployed well, health imaging systems can mean improved workflows, more cost- and time-efficient processes, fewer costly referrals and better care. Two providers share how recently implemented health imaging management systems in their cardiology departments and beyond shaped how they deliver care and some of the challenges and benefits along the way.

Smart imaging

Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center developed its in-house Smart Imaging program after its health insurer, which covers 60,000 individuals, informed the center its “burn rate” for imaging was two to three times more than what was appropriate, says Richard D. White, MD, chairman of OSU’s radiology department and director of Smart Imaging.

One year after conceptualization and following several successful pilots, OSU rolled out Smart Imaging early this year aimed to eliminate unnecessary “high-end” exams (CT, MRI, SPECT/CT and PET/CT) and preventable risks from radiation and contrast exposure as well as to facilitate more appropriate care. “It provided some opportunities to streamline ordering, protocoling and scheduling of radiology studies and change no-show and confusion,” White explains.

The traditional pattern of ambulatory imaging ordering at OSU “was an energy sink for everyone concerned,” he says.

Before the Smart Imaging program, a physician would request an imaging examination and the study subsequently would be scheduled. Only after this point, close to the day and time of the examination, the patient would be reviewed for any potential contraindication. If any issues came up, then the patient often had to be rescheduled for a different examination or course of care.

This arrangement translated to high administrative costs, patient dissatisfaction and potential delays to imaging examinations, according to Luciano Prevedello, MD, MPH, chief of the division of imaging informatics at OSU. By establishing Smart Imaging, OSU sought to remove the energy drain by focusing activities on the front end.

The Start Imaging structure entails the integration of a front-line team of technologists, scheduling staff and radiologists with technical resources like imaging decision-support, says B. Selnur Erdal, PhD, director of radiology computing and imaging information sciences. In this workflow, the team receives an imaging request, and evaluates its appropriateness by running it through evidence-based electronic clinical decision support, based on American College of Radiology (ACR) appropriateness criteria.

Potentially inappropriate requests are flagged for review by radiologists who then discuss the case with ordering clinicians to further understand the clinical scenario and guide them through the ordering process. The team ultimately delineates other needed preparations, investigates any potential safety issues, finalizes the need for the imaging order and then performs the patient-personalized imaging scheduling.

“From what we have seen so far, it has been going very well. From my perspective, radiologists in this peer-to-peer appropriateness conversation are more embedded in the process of care,” says Prevedello.

“We have demonstrated the value-added role of the radiologist,” agrees White. For example, he cites a case where a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia who had a good score on the ACR appropriateness criteria for a cardiac MR imaging test did not have the procedure after the team discovered that the patient had a pacemaker. Instead of the back-and-forth in the old system, or referring the patient back to his physician in a “whac-a-mole,” style, as White describes it, the team determined early on that the patient should have a CT scan.

Because not all conditions are covered under ACR appropriateness criteria, radiologists also may use Smart Imaging to help identify gaps or propose new criteria.

Image sharing

Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), the pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, rolled out imaging sharing technology in 2010. The IT department first implemented the program in the orthopedics and sports medicine department, and then others, including radiology and cardiology.

The technology allows patients with CDs to upload their images on the spot and have them available to clinicians through a cloud-based portal. In the past, patients brought in CDs, and IT staff uploaded them in an image service center prior to sending them back to patients. That practice created security concerns if the CD