ICIS offers comprehensive approach to image management

What makes radiologists so special?

That’s not meant to be provocative so much as a means to point out a significant difference in access that exists between radiologists and other clinicians. Traditionally, radiologists have had the luxury of being able to see the images their labs produce, while most other healthcare providers have had to settle for just viewing written reports.

But now that’s changing. 

With Agfa HealthCare’s ICIS,  providers across a healthcare enterprise can see the images they’ve ordered, and they can see them without even taking the time and effort to click outside their EHR. As Michael Green, Agfa HealthCare’s president & CEO, Americas Region, described it, “What we’re doing with ICIS is coming up with a level of integration that matches the accessibility radiologists have traditionally enjoyed.”

Naturally, that’s a pretty tall order, as hospitals in particular are bound to have images ordered by many departments, from the operating room to women’s care to ophthalmology.

Moreover, Green noted, “Those images need to be connected with specific patients and episodes.  And they need to be secure, too.”

ICIS does all that, allowing providers to call up exactly the images they need and put them in context with the other information they’re reviewing about specific patients. The name ICIS stands for Imaging Clinical Information System, as the solution delivers a comprehensive workflow means to capture, identify, store, and make accessible in a clinical context the images generated by a health system.

The fact is, hospitals across the country are in the process of making big investments in EHR systems, but without the ability to access patient images efficiently, providers are never going to get the patient’s full story. 

Integration is one key advantage to ICIS.  ICIS uses common messaging protocols that enable Agfa’s installation teams to go into a hospital and integrate the solution with most any EHR.

Another advantage to ICIS, Green says, revolves around the fact that many providers in the U.S. are currently switching to EHRs in response to the Obama administration’s Meaningful Use (MU) program that was created under the 2009 HITECH Act.

Under Stage 2 of MU, providers aiming to receive incentive payments may select the Menu Option of demonstrating the ability to access electronically 10% of the images they’ve ordered for patients.

“With that percentage requirement, providers need to do the integration work anyway,” Green noted, adding that access to imaging content will naturally figure more prominently in future MU stages. It is commonly understood that the qualifying bar on this option, as with other MU criteria, will be raised progressively with Stage 3 and beyond.

In addition to advantages related to meaningful use, Green said, providers will have the tools to be able to improve both their operational efficiencies and the delivery of patient care with ICIS.

For one thing, as providers begin to access images from and for different departments, keeping them organized and properly archived will become increasingly important. ICIS provides easy access to images and a logical way of storing them, limiting the potential for images to get lost. And with the rapid growth of cloud services, images can be consolidated and stored off-site, thus lowering costs even further.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Green said that providing more comprehensive access to images can improve the delivery of care by enabling providers to avoid the duplication of investigations that can occur when providers are unable to efficiently review time-critical images. Delivering a patient’s images in the clinical context in which the provider is working, the EHR, brings needed medical information quickly into their diagnostic consideration. The access can both save time and help control cost.

In Green’s view, hospitals are still in the early stages of figuring out how best to organize their images. Perhaps 50% of hospitals can access their radiology images remotely, he suggested, but when it comes to non-radiology images, a fast-growing segment, that figure probably drops significantly.

For providers puzzling through their options to take fuller control of their myriad of imaging resources, ICIS offers a comprehensive solution.