Whitney Palmer

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How Radiologists Can Improve Communication with Referrers

Published on the Feb. 26, 2013 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Communication. It’s been a big topic of conversation in the radiology industry, both at national meetings and inside individual practices. There’s a distinct need to improve the way radiologists and referring physicians talk to each other. The sticking point, however, has been how to do it.

There’s no question, though, the specialty needs to implement effective strategies to make communication faster, easier, and more effective. With more than 70 percent of referring physicians sending their patients to multiple facilities for imaging studies, according to one national study, it’s incumbent upon radiologists to make these working relationships as worry-free and attractive as possible, industry experts said.

“The overall effectiveness of an organization is highly dependent upon the radiology department’s ability to provide top-notch service to referring physicians, and streamlined communication is a very important piece of that puzzle,” said Mats Björnemo, director of radiology IT product marketing at Sectra, a Sweden-based radiology consulting firm. “Radiology lies at the very center of the healthcare chain. Most patients pass through an imaging department at one point or another in their treatment.”

Not only does this fluid information transfer allow for immediate input from radiologists, potentially staving off any inappropriate or repeat testing, but it also ensures patients experience fewer — if any — delays in care. In addition, these processes help radiologists quickly share any critical findings, as well as play an active role in multi-disciplinary discussions, Björnemo said.

Why Improve Communication?

While many industry leaders promote better communication as a way to raise your department’s profile within a health system or demonstrate the impact you make as radiologists, there are other reasons behind fine-tuning the way you connect with referring physicians.

According to an October 2012 Sectra report, doctors have a great interest in being able to access your schedule and book appointments for their patients online. But only 7 percent of surveyed physicians indicate the radiologists to whom they refer have web scheduling as an option. Many physicians included in the report consider offering this capability is vital to completing time-sensitive scans.

That doesn’t mean referring physicians want to eliminate all face-to-face or phone contact with you,  Björnemo said. This is where the pendulum that has lurched toward teleradiology in recent years is beginning to swing back toward having in-house radiology staff. When reviewing results, physicians want — and appreciate — being able to ask questions and talk with you directly.

Steps to Take

To effectively improve communication, however, you will need the right tools. In today’s mobile world, you will likely get the most use out of zero-footprint viewers that require no software installation or extra equipment, Björnemo said. It’s also important to consider communication products that are vendor-neutral.

For example, Carestream’s Vue Motion offers zero-footprint, vendor-neutral access to diagnostic images through any web browser or electronic health record. Without installing or downloading software, providers can use sticky-note communication, order information entry, side-by-side image display for comparisons, and synchronize images.

This type of universal product is particularly efficient in transferring critical findings in a timely manner, Björnemo said.

Clear communication can also be difficult because radiologists dictate reports in their own style and lexicon, and these differences can sometimes confuse referring physicians. And, communications products that standardize report narratives have eliminated this problem, said Aaron Brauser, Catalyst solutions manager at M*Modal. The M*Modal Catalyst for Radiology™ product uses the RadLex® Term Browser to create uniform reports.

“The biggest challenge to communication lies with the various inconsistencies of systems used in complex healthcare environments, and we’re starting to see people move toward uniformity,” Brauser said. “It’s important that no matter how the radiologists might dictate the report,  or who the report is from, that the referring physician be able to readily see what’s indicated.”

In addition to implementing a product that is compatible with almost any system and standardizing your reports, 60 percent of referring physician’s surveyed in Sectra’s report indicated 3D visualization would improve communication. Presenting findings this way would be one strategy for enhancing their ability to present and explain results to patients, they said.

To read the remainder of the story at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/how-radiologists-can-improve-communication-referrers


March 8, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radiology in 2013: The Year of Imaging Software

Published on the Jan. 3, 2013 Diagnostic Imaging website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

For radiologists and radiology vendors, the past 12 months have centered on health care reform – would the U.S. Supreme Court uphold the law, and if it did, what would it all mean? With the court’s decision, at least part of that question has been answered. Now, the industry has turned its focus to what can be done in the next year to make practice more efficient and improve how its providers interact with other specialties.

One of the biggest strategies for accomplishing this goal will be the implementation and use of new software offerings, experts say. The increasing use of more complex information in radiology practice has necessitated intelligent systems to more effectively capture and analyze data. Whether the new products impact work flow or patient care, new software developments will play an integral role in how you obtain, analyze, and share images in the future.

According to Eliot Siegel, MD, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine professor at the University of Maryland, the bulk of new software capabilities will target enhanced communication, taking how providers share information to the next level.

“So much effort has been put in during the last 20 years to actually get us to the point of being digital and having images available anytime, anywhere and being more efficient in image interpretation,” said Siegel, also the associate vice chairman of informatics. “But relatively little has been done about communicating radiology findings and information that’s important about the patient and making sure we receive return communication that our recommendations have been acted on.”

Within the next year, he predicted, radiology software will meet provider needs by not only recording when studies are completed, reported, and shared with referring physicians, but also by providing feedback on whether referring physicians acted on any radiology recommendations.

Main Provider Desires

A common provider complaint is the difficulty frequently associated with transferring images from one facility to another. In many instances, CDs are lost or referring physicians can’t download the images. Sharing studies between health care systems is also a particular challenge, Siegel said.

“It would be good to see hospitals and clinics having more universal use of images,” he said. “We should be able to transfer images directly and digitally, like sending an email. Only it would be in a safe, secure way from one facility to another.”

The Image Share Network, launched by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), is already moving the industry in this direction. Tested at five pilot sites nationwide, this initiative gives patients access to their diagnostic images via a patient health account, enabling them to transfer images to their physician much like they would in their email accounts.

Siegel also predicted the rise of software that can produce better analytics for radiology, as well as enhance natural language processing for radiology reports. Ultimately, he said, an effective system would summarize pertinent information and allow providers to either agree or disagree with the computer’s interpretation of the data. Such a system would offer improved text and structure capabilities.

What’s Coming in Communications Software

One of the most active areas in communications software development is work around speech recognition and natural language processing. Several companies are working to make these tools smarter, Siegel said.

For example, M*Modal and Nuance are developing software that will be able to understand and discern meaning from, and potentially act upon, information included in reports. Montage is also creating software that can mine current and previous radiology reports for specific words, such as pneumothorax, and correlate them with pathology reports.

“I’m really excited about this next generation of intelligent systems that generates reports and makes sure they’ve been read and acknowledged,” he said. “Computers can be useful tools to understand and extract information from the report, act on it, and allow for follow-ups.”

Additionally, many vendors are tackling improved image sharing software, using RSNA’s Image Share as a model. The most important advancement here is that these products will likely be standards-based rather than proprietary. Having a universal solution will allow health care facilities of all types — both in the same and different systems — to share all types of diagnostic imaging data associated with individual places.

Although the solution isn’t yet standards-based, information technology software developer mPlexus introduced its latest product — DICOM RadiX — at this year’s RSNA annual meeting. This automated software shares images and retrieves them from imaging archives instantly. When integrated with other mPlexus products, RadiX can transfer images between facilities, even those in separate institutions.

To read the remainder of the article in its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/informatics-pacs/content/article/113619/2121622

February 26, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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