Overcoming the PACS cost conundrum

Imagine you’re about to go on a fantastic vacation, and you find a terrific new camera that takes great pictures. But to use it, you have to buy the manufacturer’s software. Oh, and by the way, to store those pictures, you’ll need to buy different software. Want to share those pictures with your family and friends? More software.

Now, if your friends want to view them, well … you know how the story goes.

While you wouldn’t tolerate this scenario in retail, it frequently happens in the healthcare industry. Proprietary clinical IT systems such as picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) have healthcare organizations locked into single imaging solutions that can make image storage and management, as well as sharing images within and outside the enterprise, extremely complicated and costly.

The high cost of doing business

PACS systems are known for driving high-cost data and image migrations. Simply adding a new storage platform can add significant cost for proprietary migrations of imaging data to the new platform.

Meanwhile, storage platforms can be very disruptive technology, often resulting in upgrades every four to six years to meet increasing system demands and overcome costly storage maintenance that can result from legacy platforms. From higher exam volumes to increasing images per exam, to new storage systems and upgrades, reinvesting in PACS is both necessary and required to maintain necessary quality and efficiency.

However, upgrades of these storage solutions can be expensive, and maintaining traditional proprietary PACS just adds to this cost.

Data migration is also needed as PACS become outdated and require upgrades or need replacement, which can be a time-consuming process that can be very costly from both a financial and resource standpoint. For example, radiology department tends to change or modify PACS about every four to six years. This traditional archive strategy, including conversion, migration, and project management, costs organizations can cost millions to maintain. However, healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) such as The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, have reported a savings of nearly $3 million over five years.

To address the PACS cost conundrum, HDOs must shift from departmental views of medical images to a unified, enterprise storage archive that delivers a unified view of all medical images without a need for traditional PACS. Implementing a vendor neutral archive (VNA) can be a great first step to lowering this overall spend and move the HDO beyond a PACS-only approach to medical imaging.

Realizing value with a mature VNA

Before healthcare reform, it was easy to justify a $5 million or more spend on a new PACS system for a department that was responsible for a third of the HDO’s incoming revenue. Today however, with the shift to value-based reimbursement models and bundled payments, the focus on HDO departments as revenue centers is changing. Increasingly, radiology departments are going to have to compete for internal capital and operating costs as true cost centers.

These changes in reimbursement demonstrate how HDO leaders are under increasing pressure to find more efficient ways to deliver imaging solutions that maintain quality and efficiency, meet new reporting requirements and reduce operating expenses.

A true VNA is a mature technology that can be installed either in conjunction with traditional PACS or increasingly, in front of or as a replacement to traditional PACS to improve access and significantly reduce storage and migration costs. It can eliminate vendor lock and block, improve data and imaging exchange, consolidate and centralize imaging storage and improve overall IT management.

Piedmont Healthcare also provides a good example of the type of cost savings a healthcare organization can realize. Since implementing a VNA, Piedmont has saved more than $700,000 and expects an additional $2 million in savings as the organization moves additional PACS over to the enterprise-imaging model. These savings are largely the result of reduced maintenance and data migration costs.

Realize value using an enterprise visualization approach

If the HDO wants to leverage existing imaging platforms, it can utilize a standards-based visualization solution to consolidate imaging information for providers throughout the enterprise. A zero-client enterprise viewer can be a great platform upon which an HDO can begin the process of implementing an enterprise imaging strategy.

Demystifying the PACS infrastructure through a visualization approach as an initial step can consolidate imaging viewing solutions as a part of an enterprise imaging strategy, driving tremendous value.

An enterprise imaging strategy delivers numerous cost-savings benefits, while the right enterprise visualization approach can begin the process of imaging consolidation on a visualization approach. Tearing down data silos, eliminating proprietary vendor formatting, consolidating hardware and software purchases by consolidating maintenance into a single imaging archive and enterprise visualization solution avoids the costs that plague traditional PACS solutions.

By implementing a mature VNA and an enterprise visualization approach puts the HDO on the road to an enterprise imaging strategy. This helps your organization drive greater value for years to come and allows you to overcome the PACS cost conundrum.

To learn more about how the right enterprise imaging approach can help your healthcare facility drive value, improve access, and realize a host of other benefits, download the whitepaper 8 reasons to move beyond PACS-only approach to imaging.

And don’t forget to visit us in booth # 1316 at RSNA 2017!

Phil Wasson

Phil Wasson

Phil Wasson, FACHE, is a healthcare industry manager and consultant at Hyland. His mission is to develop content and create alignment with healthcare organizations focusing on information management and imaging... read more about: Phil Wasson

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