Agfa HealthCare's ICIS: changing how one provider does medicine

When it comes to modern businesses, "transformation" can be a word with many meanings.  

On the one hand, it can mean something as straightforward as taking an enterprise with many offices and putting them under one roof.

When it comes to changing how an organization operates, however, "transformation" is usually a lot more complicated.

For example, in 2005, the Brussels, Belgium-Based Edith Cavell Interregional Hospital Group (CHIREC) embarked upon a plan to become fully digitized – i.e., paperless – across its six-site operation.  But the process is not going to happen overnight. 

"Transforming CHIREC into a fully digitalized enterprise  . . . will take us some 15 years in all," Dr. Denis Goldschmidt, a CHIREC surgeon and representative of the medical professionals to the IT department, recently observed.

Part of the overall plan is in fact physical, in that CHIREC is planning to move all its Brussels sites to a single new site, called 'Delta', in 2017. It will have 500 beds, 1000 parking spaces, hotel facilities, a cafeteria, shops, a nursery, family accommodations and more.

But a more critical part, at least in terms of delivering care to patients in the most efficient way possible, involves providing every doctor with access to all of a patient's diagnostic images regardless of where those images are stored.

"If we want to have a complete view of the patient's history," Goldschmidt said, "we must be able to share non-radiologic images, as well. As a surgeon, for example, I take photos in the operating room, and in fact there are images coming from everywhere."

The solution for CHIREC has been to implement Agfa HealthCare's Enterprise Imaging Platform, ICIS, which includes image capture, universal viewer and vendor neutral archive (VNA) services.

"ICIS View lets us see all our images," explained Goldschmidt, "from any department, from any of our sites."

With ICIS, Agfa HealthCare has created a solution to link the variety of DICOM and non-DICOM images from multiple departments across the enterprise into the EHR so that when a physician pulls up a patient's record they have a complete picture of the patient in clinical context, with images and text all in one place. ICIS is designed to provide the ability to create EHR-ready image content from any department and exchange comprehensive image records securely to any clinician on the enterprise network.

As Luc Thijs, Agfa HealthCare's president, recently explained, "The great thing about ICIS is that it's vendor neutral. So if a hospital is running unique PACS vendors in different departments, they don't have to go in and make a huge investment replacing systems. As a vendor-neutral platform, ICIS can integrate all of the images . . . in a central archive so that physicians can access them in the context of a patient's medical record. 

According to Thierry Roger, CHIREC's head of radiology, ICIS "lets us really improve the service we provide to the hospital's clinicians.  Radiologists can, for example, check images from home when they are on call, without needing to come into the hospital. And the clinicians can see the image and the report immediately, side by side, which is what they want. So there is greater satisfaction." 

The CHIREC workgroup knew a web-based viewer would be an important part of its transformation.  With its 'anywhere, any image' access, interoperable integration into CHIREC's own EHR, and ease of use for clinicians and radiologists alike, Agfa HealthCare's universal viewer meets the organization's important needs for collaboration and information exchange.

Said Goldschmidt, "This is what will allow us to provide better care for our patients, more efficiently, with fewer difficulties and fewer resources. It is a major transformation, and is changing the way we do medicine."