Visualizing an enterprise imaging strategy


A healthcare professional reviews x-rays and other medical images across three monitors.

A recent infographic contains this startling statistic: “Healthcare data will reach 15 zetabytes by 2020,” which is equivalent to four times the amount of information contained on the Internet! That’s a lot of Facebook posts about what’s for dinner.

With the advent of new technologies like genomics, 3D imaging, unstructured healthcare data, and other advanced visualization tools, plus the aging population in the U.S., healthcare data is growing exponentially.

Managing the growth of healthcare data requires an enterprise strategy

Managing all this healthcare data is especially challenging when you consider that much of it lives outside of the traditional electronic health record (EHR) platform in siloed systems where it isn’t easily accessed or managed.

In fact, studies as far back as 2013 suggest that by 2017, 75 percent of all healthcare data will be in the form of DICOM and non-DICOM medical imaging assets. Analysts including Gartner and Merrill Lynch further support the contention that a vast majority of patient data — upwards of 80 percent  — is unstructured or semi-structured and not natively captured by EHRs.

Developing a strategy to control this unstructured information using a comprehensive enterprise imaging and content management strategy is an important consideration for healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) today. This strategy should image-enable existing siloed applications using a robust visualization component while at the same time developing approaches for the enterprise management of all healthcare data.

Enterprise viewing can address the visualization component of an enterprise imaging strategy because these technologies have undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Not only have the feature sets of enterprise viewing solutions been enhanced, but many also have improved integration and interoperability with other existing clinical systems in use at HDOs. The ability to interoperate with existing imaging systems allows the solution to federate these existing silos, making this existing content available to all clinicians throughout the enterprise.

Visualization is an important component of an enterprise imaging strategy and can represent the first step of implementing a strategy. Enterprise imaging enables more informed clinical decision-making and drives down costs by allowing HDOs to capture, manage and view medical images while integrating them into existing workflows.

A successful enterprise imaging strategy usually consists of three parts — a capture solution, a management solution, and a visualization solution. Providers can implement the solution in increments beginning in any of these areas based on the needs and limitations of the HDO.

An infographic reads: Hospitals and health systems today generate massive amounts of patient-related data from a variety of sources. This information holds to the power to change care as we know it. 1.2 billion clinical documents are produced each year | 33.8 million MRIs were performed in 2013 | 80 million CT scans are conducted per year | Healthcare data will reach 15 zetabytes by 2020, which is equivalent to 4x the amount of information contained on the internet

How can visualization help you gain control?

Healthcare providers using traditional medical imaging methods are typically required to log into several dedicated departmental applications to view the myriad of images that are associated with a patient. This historical method is not only a time-consuming exercise, but it can also negatively impact patient diagnosis and treatment because of the clinical blind spots that are common with this traditional approach.

Enterprise imaging solutions have gone from operating as stand-alone, proprietary solutions that require a thick-client architecture to flexible, thin-client, zero-footprint solutions that can render all clinical imaging information at the server level. Today’s modern enterprise imaging viewer allows the end user to easily access DICOM studies and even non-DICOM images through any browser-based device from anywhere a secure Internet connection is available.

An enterprise viewing solution is a great place to start to help gain immediate control of healthcare imaging information that exists within individual silos across the organization. It also positions the HDO in developing an enterprise imaging strategy that is part of a strategic plan to gain control of healthcare data across their enterprise.

Enterprise visualization today is a capable technology

Early adopters of a comprehensive medical imaging visualization approach are already realizing benefits. Each approach can be tailored to meet individual HDO requirements and needs. For example, Vanderbilt Medical Center is using a medical visualization strategy to initiate an enterprise-wide solution to streamline enterprise image access and sharing, while enabling teleneurology. Clinicians at Vanderbilt now have access to all medical images across the entire organization via their EHR.

Another example is the University of North Carolina (UNC) Health Care. UNC Health Care has implemented an enterprise imaging strategy that includes a comprehensive visualization capability that supports its “One Patient, One Chart, One Imaging Record” vision.

Like many HDOs, UNC initiated its data consolidation journey with the EHR, but quickly realized that a truly comprehensive healthcare information strategy required much more than just a focus on the EHR component. Through the implementation of the NilRead enterprise viewer, UNC was able to integrate imaging studies with its EHR, essentially providing a longitudinal imaging record for the organization.

As a result, UNC has been able to decommission nine PACS systems and will be decommissioning another six systems in 2018.

Today’s healthcare delivery model demands a more patient-centered, structured and outcomes-based approach. Healthcare providers today demand and deserve visualization technology that can be accessed anywhere at any time and provides the clinician with the advanced tools they need to do their jobs.

Providing the best care revolves around having access to as much data as possible about the patient to support care decisions. Having access to medical imaging exams and procedures on a patient, even from different providers, is essential to this process. Medical images are a critical component of completing the patient picture. However, without a comprehensive visualization approach as part of an enterprise imaging strategy, an HDO will rely on an incomplete clinical picture of the patient.

It’s time for an enterprise imaging plan and what better place to start than through a comprehensive visualization strategy?

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