Cleveland Clinic pursues comprehensive visualization strategy

One way of looking at health IT is simply as an improved way of accessing information. But while many healthcare stakeholders might start out with that thought when they implement new IT systems, the smart ones aim for much more.

At Cleveland Clinic, for example, the radiology department needed to replace a legacy PACS, and they chose Agfa HealthCare's IMPAX solution, with the company's Enterprise Imaging solution as the image 'storage container'.  But according to Louis Lannum, Cleveland Clinic's director of enterprise imaging, the organization is aiming for much more than efficient storage and access to radiology images. They set their sights on the broad range of multispecialty images generated across the health system.

"We're developing a visualization strategy that allows physicians to look at any multispecialty image, in clinical context with its associated report, and develop a true picture of what's going on with the patient," he said recently.  "Every doctor I know is extremely visual, and now we're providing that visualization layer for them. Once physicians and practitioners and other hospital providers are able to see beyond EHR text, into a more visual world, it is going to enable better medicine, and better clinical practice."

At Cleveland Clinic, which employs 2,800 physicians and scientists, as well as 11,000 nurses, Agfa HealthCare's Enterprise Imaging Platform technology is enabling a global view of patient information that can be viewed at any of 35,000 workstations. Recognized as one of the country's most forward-thinking hospitals, Cleveland Clinic is a fully integrated health system comprised of 1,440 beds at its main campus and more than 4,450 total beds throughout its system of family health centers, community hospitals and regional and international hospitals.

According to Lannum, the organization has not had to wait long to see the impact.  Dozens of image-producing specialty groups throughout the system jumped in line for the ability to manage and share their images in the patient-centric clinical context of the EHR.  For example, within the first year, they had completed an integration between the women's health image system and the Agfa solution, thus enabling staff to capture and access all their maternal fetal ultrasounds.

In the eyes of Bill Corsten, Agfa HealthCare's regional president, North America, part of the reason for that success has been the trusted working relationship that has developed between the two organizations. 

"Cleveland Clinic has world-recognized clinical expertise and leadership in the application of integrated technologies in medical practice," he observed. "We augment that with Agfa HealthCare's workflow-centric image management platform and technical support. Our driver is that, together, we can help healthcare organizations maximize the value of their EHR investment.  Visual healthcare optimizes the EHR for clinicians across the enterprise."

Lannum added that, to have a better chance of a successful implementation, Cleveland Clinic formed an Imaging Council whose mission is to provide executive oversight and tie together department and unit needs with Cleveland Clinic's overarching goal: to provide a complete longitudinal visual record for every patient.

Thus far, Lannum said, the Council's work has been successful. "We have a global view of the patient, and the fact that the physicians have remote access to the EHR from their offices, from their homes, and from their personal devices, means that we are delivering ubiquitous availability to quality visual information."

And, perhaps most importantly, the transition has been met with a high level of satisfaction on the part of Cleveland Clinic's physician group. 

"We were smart enough so that when we bought a department solution, we also bought an enterprise-wide strategy," Lannum said of Cleveland Clinic's decision. And that strategy is clearly working.