CVIS: Streamlining Cardiovascular Image & Information Management

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Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX CV is ideal for multimodality cardiology environments including cath, echo, non-invasive vascular, nuclear cardiology, and ECG data management to create a single, integrated cardiovascular image and information solution.

Cardiovascular image and data management can be challenging. Procedures are diverse, and many facilities operate multiple decentralized information systems. Plus, some hospitals and cardiology practices continue to rely on outdated and inefficient technology like tape-based storage for cardiac cath procedures.

Traditional cardiovascular image management and reporting configurations are brimming with both workflow and patient care challenges. Physicians may be forced to log on to multiple systems to access patient images and data, which not only impedes workflow but can also slow diagnosis, decision-making and treatment. Reporting presents similar challenges. A single site may use a variety of paper and transcription-based options, making database creation and registry compliance labor-intensive and time-consuming. Multiple, disconnected systems translate into a greater burden on IT staff, too. In many hospitals, management and troubleshooting of outdated systems consume scarce IT resources.

The status quo, however, is a dying breed. Hospitals and cardiology practices across the country have tapped into a new paradigm that offers significant clinical and operational benefits. Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX Cardiovascular Suite (IMPAX CV) delivers a one-stop shop for cardiology image access and structured clinical records. IMPAX CV includes a cardiology PACS, which delivers advantages on a number of fronts including simple access to patient images and data and consistent structured reports, which can lead to efficient clinical decision-making. It represents the business model for the future of cardiovascular image and information management, providing a means for sites to enhance patient care, communication and workflow. This month, several hospitals and cardiology practices share the secrets of their success with Cardiovascular Business.

The diverse deployment

University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, represents a diverse and widespread health system. Its facilities run the gamut and include Case Medical Center, a 947-bed hospital and academic medical center, as well as multiple community hospitals and outpatient clinics. In June 2007, University Hospitals replaced several aging cardiac image and data management systems with Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX CV. The state-of-the-art system serves as a central repository for echocardiography, non-invasive vascular and cath studies for 12 University Hospitals sites in three counties. EMC CLARiiON and EMC Centera are deployed to manage enterprise storage needs.

“Physicians no longer need to access different systems to view echo and cath studies,” says Keith Fox, supervisor of adult echocardiography laboratory. University Hospitals also plans to migrate or convert 10 years of historical data onto IMPAX CV to meet a state mandate for retention of patient data. “The migration is complex and will take two years, but it will improve the delivery of patient care because cardiologists will be able to view and compare current and prior data to determine if the patient’s condition has deteriorated or improved,” explains Fox.

The ultimate goal in the health system is accelerated and improved patient treatment, says Cardiology PACS Project Manager Linda Smitley, RN. Rapid report generation and distribution facilitate the organization’s patient care goals. “Agfa HealthCare’s clinical structured reporting capabilities made it possible for University Hospitals to meet this goal,” says Smitley. With IMPAX CV, cardiologists complete the reporting in the cath lab while the patient is on the table. The completed document can be faxed to the patient care unit and to referring and attending physicians, promoting prompt and responsive patient care.

The streamlined IMPAX CV Reporting module improves the hospitals’ previous model. The previous report workflow entailed multiple steps; physicians completed reports at the end of the day before sending them to transcription. After transcription returned the report, cardiologists proofread and signed the document before sharing it with other clinicians. The time difference is significant; in some cases report turnaround plunged from more than 72 hours under the transcription model to same-day results with IMPAX CV.

Structured reporting capabilities benefit the echocardiography and vascular realms, too. “Accreditation in echo and vascular requires consistency across all [affiliated] hospitals,” explains Smitley. “The required level of consistency is almost impossible without a robust structured reporting solution.” Prior to Agfa HealthCare Cardiovascular, some University Hospitals facilities used structured reporting, but others relied on manual dictation or check sheets that were routed to transcriptionists, so report structure varied among physicians. The model not only made it difficult to enter data into databases and registries, but also incorporated a level of subjectivity.

In contrast, IMPAX CV Reporting offers a streamlined, consistent model; universal clinical structured reporting requires cardiologists to use consistent phrasing and terminology. Every physician on staff uses the same definition of clinical terms, such as “moderate blockage.” Plus, the system can fax results, so physicians can proceed to diagnosis and treatment. “Accelerated diagnosis and treatment can translate into a more rapid patient response and greater likelihood of improvement in the patient’s condition,” states Smitley.

In addition to expediting patient care, structured reporting can also deliver financial and workflow benefits by eliminating the need for transcription and subsequent physician proofreading.

The other critical half of the cardiac-care equation is the referring physician population. IMPAX CV delivers significant clinical and productivity muscle by providing simple access to patient data and images. Physicians can access cardiology reports and results through the use of Agfa’s Cardiovascular Enterprise Viewer (CVEV), which permits a physician to view images on any web-enabled PC. “There are no more calls from physicians looking for reports,” notes Fox. Plus, physicians can view images online immediately after acquisition.

A final benefit of CVIS? IT is nearly a non-issue. University Hospitals’ disaster and redundancy strategy includes a backup database at each site. “If a system does go down, patient care can continue without disrupting other functions,” explains Fox. Cardiologists can access images via the backup database. In the past, acquisition workstations served as the backup. If the main cardiology data center failed, physicians needed to view images at the modality. The arrangement meant that modality devices might not be available for patient imaging during downtime.

Efficiency, quality, economics

EMH Regional Medical Center in Elyria, Ohio, is a high-volume cardiac center. The medical center’s seven cath labs complete about 7,000 procedures annually, and its echo volume stands at about 15,000 studies annually.

The center deployed Agfa’s IMPAX CV in 2003, and the comprehensive image and information management system has provided EMH Regional Medical Center the scalability and flexibility necessary to evolve in the changing cardiology arena.

Prior to IMPAX CV, EMH relied on two unreliable, inefficient storage systems. “The tape-based cardiac cath system had passed end of life. It was not reliable or efficient. We stored echo studies on VHS tape, which was very inefficient and consumed a lot of space,” recalls Charlotte Wray, director of cardiovascular services. Locating an historic study was a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, and tapes didn’t always withstand the test of time, so even “found” studies might hold minimal clinical value because they were unreadable.

“We wanted a technology-forward solution that could provide rapid viewing of current and historical images and a safe and secure archive for our high volume of studies,” says Wray. At first, IMPAX CV seemed like a two-for-one solution, as the system replaced the outdated cath and echo systems, providing physicians with anytime/anywhere access to images through the IMPAX CVEV web-based solution. The CVIS, however, delivers additional value beyond cath and echo image management.

The echocardiography module of Agfa’s IMPAX CV can handle digital echocardiograms from echo carts from a broad spectrum of industry-leading vendors.

That’s because image management is only one part of the CVIS puzzle. The other, equally important function of IMPAX CV is the physician reporting/database function. “All cath labs need a way to categorize procedures and organize them for data submission to national registries,” says Cath Lab Manager Don Schiffbauer. Prior to Agfa HealthCare Cardiovascular, the process of submitting data to American College of Cardiology (ACC) registries was manual, labor-intensive and retrospective. The center was required to fill in paperwork for each of its thousands of patients. “At any time, we might have been several months behind on submission,” notes Wray, “and it wasn’t uncommon to authorize overtime to complete the paperwork.”

Fast forward to today. Information is gathered in real-time as catheterizations are completed. “It’s efficient, automated and economical,” sums Schiffbauer. In addition, data are consistent across all physicians as users can look up definitions and parameters for any data element via embedded hyperlinks. Plus, data are immediately available for quality assurance purposes or educational conferences.

IMPAX CV delivers additional reporting benefits as its physician reporting component is customizable by site. EMH Medical Center improved reporting workflow and consistency by creating standardized text for common report sections. “Physicians no longer have to hunt and peck for commonly used language, and the reports are thorough and consistent,” says Schiffbauer. Standardized text covers the gamut of cardiac needs from staging criteria for coronary interventions to post-procedural treatment reommendations for patients. Although care is individualized for each patient, many treatment regimens are used repeatedly. Providing multiple standardized recommendations allows for uniform documentation of care.

Other workflow gains originate from the system’s IT independence. IMPAX CV can communicate with an array of other imaging and IT systems. During a recent upgrade, EMH Medical Center wed IMPAX CV to its hemodynamic monitoring system to reduce lab workload. Now, when technologists enter patient data into the hemodynamic monitoring system, it is automatically transferred to IMPAX CV, which saves keystrokes and time and minimizes data entry errors. There are other important results, too, says Dan Cecil, cardiology PACS administrator. “Patient throughput is more efficient, and at the same time techs have more time to spend focusing on patient care. Patients and staff are more satisfied.”

A piece of the paperless puzzle

Featured in Newt Gingrich’s well-known book Paper Kills, The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C., is a paperless powerhouse. The practice uses IMPAX CV in conjunction with Allscripts Touchworks EMR to purge paper, maximize efficiency and optimize patient care.

The 10-physician university cardiology practice deployed Agfa’s cardiovascular image management and reporting solution in June 2007 on the heels of a successful installation at the George Washington University Hospital in November 2006.

“There are several obvious reasons for choosing Agfa HealthCare Cardiovascular,” asserts Richard Katz, MD, director, division of cardiology. On the hospital side, the structured reporting and database features provide a mechanism to meet documentation compliance and registry standards. And as both the hospital and office move toward obtaining laboratory certification in areas like vascular ultrasound and nuclear cardiology, IMPAX CV helps meet key objectives required for certification. For example, the medical center uses IMPAX CV to assist in quality assurance, comparing echocardiogram and nuclear cardiology images to help meet ongoing accreditation requirements. Finally, accreditation and insurance reimbursement often go hand in hand, forging a link between the cardiology database and return on investment (ROI). “The database incorporates elements required for the registries and accreditation, so as cardiologists create the structured reports that populate the database essential data are included. The end result is a queriable database,” says Katz.

The new system is a winner in both the hospital and office settings, says Katz. Take for example the typical cardiac office visit or ER encounter. The web-based thin-client CVEV allows the physician to view both office and hospital-based test reports and images even before seeing the patient. “It’s an information-rich experience. In addition, with complete access to prior images, there are fewer repeat studies,” explains Katz. The ability to reduce repeat studies is a winner on all sides. It can save time and money and as a result improve staff and patient satisfaction.

The practice has taken steps to optimize its system including developing an interface between Agfa HealthCare Cardiovascular and its Touchworks EMR, which allows physicians to access cardiac images and reports from the EMR. George Washington Hospital uses a similar configuration with results sent to a results database as soon as the physician completes the report. “Our physicians have immediate access to images and reports from the hospital, clinic, office and home,” says Katz, “There is no need for physicians to interrupt workflow to come to the echo suite looking for a report.”

A final, but not insignificant, benefit of the paperless environment is reclaimed real estate. The George Washington University Medical Center converted its former file room into a new non-invasive laboratory, transforming a useless paper warehouse into an income-producing space.

Success the second time around

For Providence Portland Medical Center and St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore., their second cardiology information system proved to be a charm. In 2005, the two hospitals replaced an aging PACS with IMPAX CV. “We needed a consolidated, centralized solution that required less IT maintenance and delivered improved uptime,” sums Dan Scharbach, regional director, Invasive Heart and Vascular Services. IMPAX CV also meets the centers’ future plans as its parent provider Providence Health & Services aims to expand applications across different cardiac imaging systems and beyond Portland.

Currently, IMPAX CV serves as a repository for echocardiography, cardiac catheterization and vascular images and is interfaced with imaging systems of various ages from three vendors. “Cardiologists are extremely pleased. Their access to information is simplified,” reports Scharbach. Links on the physician website connect users to IMPAX CV and patient data. The updated configuration meets IT needs as well. The cardiology information system is easy to manage, yet robust; it encompasses a central offsite server that holds all images and onsite servers at the two medical centers.

Providence Portland Medical Center also is part of the Providence Health & Services Network which has deployed EMC technology to manage its centralized IT services covering their 26 hospitals, 35 non-acute facilities and physician clinics across five states. Providence Health & Services has implemented a tiered networked storage strategy that includes EMC Symmetrix, CLARiiON and Centera for long-term archiving.

Before and after snapshots of physician workflow demonstrate significant improvement. Prior to IMPAX CV, cardiologists had to remain at a designated workstation to review images. With universal availability of web-based images, cardiologists can review studies and dictate cases using any PC. Plus, because images are available for viewing on any PC with an internet connection, cardiologists can consult with colleagues during a procedure to answer questions. For example, physicians can confer real-time to determine if a patient needs to progress from a diagnostic test to an interventional procedure.

The widespread availability of images benefits patient communication as well. Physicians can wheel cart-based PCs into patient rooms to share images with patients and better explain the diagnosis and treatment, says Scharbach.

Gateway to cardiac image management and reporting success

IMPAX CV provides a solid foundation for cardiac image management and reporting success. It offers a robust image archive with streamlined access to current and prior cardiac images. It also addresses the full scope of cardiac reporting needs. It provides a structured clinical record to streamline and inject consistency into the reporting process. What’s more, IMPAX CV incorporates a full range of report access and delivery options to meet the full range of physician needs. Reports can be faxed via Outbound Reporting with fax service or viewed via the web or integrated EMRs. The results are impressive. Physicians can work more efficiently, which can enhance patient care and at the same time, improve the bottom line. The upshot? A full-fledged cardiology patient data management system like Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX CV is ideal for the 21st century cardiology department.