Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 25, 2016

How Providers are Improving Workflows with Vendor Neutral Archives

Workflow efficiency is everything to healthcare providers and health systems today – not only because reducing healthcare costs, improving clinical quality and adopting a more patient-centric view are now universal goals, but also due to the sheer volume of medical images that are being produced. More than 600 million medical imaging procedures are performed worldwide every year, and medical imaging archives are increasing by 40 percent annually. While there are numerous technologies available today for healthcare organizations to improve the quality and efficiency of care, the vendor-neutral archive (VNA) is one that has been growing in popularity.

Vendor-neutral archives offer enterprise IT solutions, such as systems-neutral storage and universal viewers that help resolve a range of workflow challenges within healthcare organizations. The concept of neutrality is central to a VNA because it enables these systems to store relevant clinical information in non-proprietary, interchangeable formats. This makes VNAs especially useful due to their ability to manage, store and share clinical images as well as help improve interoperability across multiple health organizations and care settings. Additionally, VNAs can be implemented using customizable approaches to meet specific needs within a certain healthcare organization. We’ll explore two of these approaches by highlighting real-world examples from the University of Miami Health System (UHealth) and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC).

Audrey Veitas

Leveraging VNAs as part of a new imaging data management strategy

University of Miami Health System is a large academic medical institution and medical school with three hospitals and more than 30 satellite locations. The immense size of UHealth resulted in the health system producing a significant amount of imaging exams, even in specialties outside of the radiology and cardiology departments where large imaging volumes are typically found.

“Scopes, cameras, and smartphones are routinely used within various service lines for evaluating and documenting medical disorders and pathologies,” said Dawn Cram, UHealth’s IT applications systems development manager for enterprise imaging.

UHealth was looking to overhaul its imaging data management strategy and decided to pursue a VNA solution that would maintain support for the requirement of radiology and cardiology, while expanding the capabilities to encompass additional specialties including dermatology, surgical services, endoscopy, gastrointestinal and otolaryngology. To accomplish this, UHealth is leveraging Merge Healthcare’s VNA solution, iConnect Enterprise Archive, and universal image viewer, iConnect Access. Since many of UHealth’s devices do not create DICOM images, having the ability to use XDS workflows provided the health system with the opportunity to view any content type, depending on each department’s specific needs. UHealth’s VNA solution is also able to archive and present all enterprise-wide images from disparate PACS, specialties and sites for a complete image management solution. To date, UHealth has brought dermatology live on the iConnect Enterprise Archive, and has a specialty-by-specialty strategy that will take the health system through the next five years.

Disaster recovery made possible with VNA solution

Hospitals, physician offices and health systems store immense amounts of patient medical records. In fact, medical record laws in almost every state require physicians and hospitals to store patient records for upwards of five years. As a leading children’s hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center abides by these rules and holds on to a patient’s medical images for seven years after the patient turns 21. The responsibility in storing medical records also translates into having a disaster recovery plan for the data. Understanding this responsibility, CCHMC built disaster recovery process improvement into its overall enterprise imaging strategy.

Working with Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Enterprise Archive as well as its Merge PACS solution, CCHMC was able to use its VNA to create a contingency system that replicated long-term storage hardware at an off-site disaster recovery data center. The data center hardware is configured the same as the production site, and everything on the production enterprise archive is automatically reconciled with the disaster recovery site. CCHMC now also uses its enterprise archive for long-term storage in its cardiology department. Different from UHealth’s approach, CCHMC chose to maintain all content in DICOM format due to the Center’s preference. Additionally, there have been no major issues integrating Merge’s technology with other vendors’ systems. When a provider does need to access non-DICOM images, the hospital is opting for a strategy that leverages a DICOM-wrapper for jpegs and other image formats, which allows the PACS viewer to see those images.

VNAs will continue to improve healthcare workflows

As the above examples illustrate, a successful VNA solution is often driven by an enterprise imaging plan that reflects the healthcare organization’s specific needs. When deciding on a VNA implementation plan, it’s vital to take into account the ways a VNA solution can integrate departments and best deliver results. A well thought-out VNA solution can provide workflow improvements that benefit clinical quality and physician productivity, positioning any healthcare provider or health system for success in delivering more efficient, patient-centric care.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
By Special Guest
Audrey Veitas, Director of Product Marketing, Merge Healthcare ,

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