A sound imaging strategy: The heart of effective cardiac care

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Cardiovascular disease accounts for 17 million deaths each year, and is the number one cause of death worldwide. The growth of an aging patient population, combined with the arrival of major healthcare reform, makes it critical for cardiology service providers to embrace new electronic record management and imaging technologies.

While not visible to many of the users within their department, progressive cardiology leaders are implementing a strategy that puts the emphasis on system consolidation and infrastructure. With a solid imaging strategy that consolidates the many disparate cardiology imaging systems into a single enterprise-wide vendor-neutral archive (VNA), the foundation is set for growth and expansion going forward.
Next on the to-do list for these progressive leaders is to develop a sound image interoperability strategy. The days of burning CDs with a cardiac patient’s images, then sending them off through snail mail or overnight delivery services need to be a thing of the past. Today’s technology can facilitate secure, electronic transfer of cardiology studies, resulting in not only more efficient and timely delivery, but also enhanced image care through image sharing. This also helps avoid duplicative imaging studies. For these reasons, image sharing will become mainstream as the regulations tighten on reimbursement of duplicate exams.
In addition to a VNA, other technologies like cloud-based storage and policy-based deletion (PBD) should be considered. The cloud is growing every day and while it would, of course, never eliminate the need for a high-performance onsite image cache, it may be well-suited for disaster recovery or second-copy archive. Policy-based deletion, while in its infancy, would have a dramatic effect on required storage. For a typical health system, implementing PBD could reduce their storage needs by up to 40%, which would result in a dramatic reduction in operational costs. Many states have laws governing how long a patient’s images must be accessible – typically 7 to 10 years – yet  ess than 1% of all service providers actually take advantage of this. Instead, they continue to migrate older studies that could be eliminated.
Health systems that are truly implementing imaging solutions to help improve workflow and patient care while reducing overall costs offer prime examples of the growing importance of imaging interoperability to specialties like cardiology. Chicago-based Sinai Health System (SHS), for instance, is just one that has recently selected several Merge Healthcare technology platforms designed to make archiving, viewing and sharing cardiology images faster, easier and more efficient. Not to mention, there are clear benefits to preparing for legislative measures like Meaningful Use Stage 2.
Like other specialties, cost and delivery pressures are continuously being applied to cardiology service providers as well. Those that have created and implemented a sound imaging strategy will thrive and those that have not will inevitably be consolidated.
What are you doing to help your specialty care providers prepare for image sharing? How have the regulatory tailwinds changed your business priorities?

Originally posted on: 1/6/2014 12:53:58 PM

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