Seven Cardiology Imaging Considerations

Cardiovascular disease accounts for 17 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. Every year, about 720,000 Americans suffer a heart attack according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. And, it all comes at a price: Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion annually. 

In this day and age, as health care providers are keenly focused on the triple aim – improved population health, enhanced patient care experiences and reduced costs – focusing on cardiology services is becoming a top priority. 

As such, getting the right technology in place is a top priority. Here, Bob Schallhorn, vice president of solutions management at Merge Healthcare, a Chicago-based imaging solutions vendor, weighs in on seven important considerations that leaders need to carefully ponder as they strive to develop a solid cardiology imaging strategy: 

Consideration #1: Consolidation. "Consolidation is the trigger that is prompting providers to purchase new cardiology imaging systems. Many physician practices are consolidating and many physicians are becoming hospital employees. Consolidation within cardiology departments also is occurring. As such, providers no longer want to have multiple cardiology imaging systems, operating in silos. They don't want to have to maintain different databases and archiving systems," Schallhorn says. 

Consideration #2: Cost of ownership. "Cost of ownership always bubbles to the top when talking about cardiology imaging systems. There are so many economies of scale associated with moving to just one system. Instead of supporting three separate contracts, you just have to support one," Schallhorn points out. "Once on a single system, there are also the obvious efficiencies gained from streamlined access to and distribution of information." 

Consideration #3: Workflow. "Working with the right cardiology system offers a huge opportunity to improve clinical workflow. Clinicians are apt to find themselves in situations where they have to manage more and more patients. The more they can automate that process, the better. Of course, moving to a new system involves change, so effective change management is key. During this process, clinicians should be involved in not only the selection of the system but also in the configuration and design of the workflow," Schallhorn says.

Consideration #4: Image sharing. "Sharing information sits at the heart of the new health care models such as accountable care organizations. Cardiology disease needs to be managed over long periods of time across the care continuum. So, access to longitudinal records is critical. As such, being able to share images within the patient's electronic health record is key," Schallhorn says. 

Consideration #5: Interoperability. "Images are the biggest part of the patient record. So, it's a huge cost and efficiency benefit if systems are interoperable. As such, organizations don't have to copy and store images multiple times. Having systems that are interoperable simply results in a lot of care and cost advantages," Schallhorn says. 

Consideration #6: Big data. "If you can grab all of the data that has been isolated in the cardiology imaging system and blend and correlate with all kinds of other data that is housed in other systems such as the EHR, that will be incredibly powerful. Having all this information to improve patient care and population health is what is really exciting about the new model of care delivery," Schallhorn says. 

Consideration #7: Scalability. "Healthcare organizations are continuing to grow. So, imaging systems have to be able to withstand this growth. These systems have to be able to scale up when providers add on physician practices or when they acquire and consolidate other hospitals," Schallhorn says.