In current medical practice, data extraction is limited by a number of factors including lack of information system integration, manual workflow, excessive workloads, and lack of standardized databases. The combined limitations result in clinically important data often being overlooked, which can adversely affect clinical outcomes through the introduction of medical error, diminished diagnostic confidence, excessive utilization of medical services, and delays in diagnosis and treatment planning. Current technology development is largely inflexible and static in nature, which adversely affects functionality and usage among the diverse and heterogeneous population of end users. In order to address existing limitations in medical data extraction, alternative technology development strategies need to be considered which incorporate the creation of end user profile groups (to account for occupational differences among end users), customization options (accounting for individual end user needs and preferences), and context specificity of data (taking into account both the task being performed and data subject matter). Creation of the proposed context- and user-specific data extraction and presentation templates offers a number of theoretical benefits including automation and improved workflow, completeness in data search, ability to track and verify data sources, creation of computerized decision support and learning tools, and establishment of data-driven best practice guidelines.
Data mining; Data extraction; Decision support
One of the greatest challenges facing healthcare professionals is the ability to directly and efficiently access relevant data from the patient’s healthcare record at the point of care; specific to both the context of the task being performed and the specific needs and preferences of the individual end-user. In radiology practice, the relative inefficiency of imaging data organization and manual workflow requirements serves as an impediment to historical imaging data review. At the same time, clinical data retrieval is even more problematic due to the quality and quantity of data recorded at the time of order entry, along with the relative lack of information system integration. One approach to address these data deficiencies is to create a multi-disciplinary patient referenceable database which consists of high-priority, actionable data within the cumulative patient healthcare record; in which predefined criteria are used to categorize and classify imaging and clinical data in accordance with anatomy, technology, pathology, and time. The population of this referenceable database can be performed through a combination of manual and automated methods, with an additional step of data verification introduced for data quality control. Once created, these referenceable databases can be filtered at the point of care to provide context and user-specific data specific to the task being performed and individual end-user requirements.
Data mining; Decision support; Imaging informatics
Data overload is a burgeoning challenge for the medical imaging community; with resulting technical, clinical, and economic ramifications. A primary concern for radiologists is the timely, efficient, and accurate extraction of imaging and clinical data, which collectively are essential in determining accurate diagnosis. In current practice, imaging data retrieval is limited by the fact that imaging and report data are de-coupled from one another, along with the non-standardized and often ambiguous free text data contained within narrative radiology reports. Clinical data retrieval is equally challenging and flawed by the lack of information system integration, paucity of clinical order entry data, and diminished role of the technologist in providing clinical data. These combined factors have the potential to adversely affect radiologist performance and clinical outcomes by diminishing workflow, report accuracy, and diagnostic confidence. New and innovative strategies are required to improve and automate data extraction and presentation, in a context- and user-specific fashion.
Data extraction; Decision support; Imaging informatics
This study examined whether radiology report format influences reading time and comprehension of information. Three reports were reformatted to conventional free text, structured text organized by organ system, and hierarchical structured text organized by clinical significance. Five attending radiologists, five radiology residents, five internal medicine attendings, and five internal medicine residents read the reports and answered a series of questions about them. Reading was timed and participants reported reading preferences. For reading time, there was no significant effect for format, but there was for attending versus resident, and radiology versus internal medicine. For percent correct scores, there was no significant effect for report format or for attending versus resident, but there was for radiology versus internal medicine with the radiologists scoring better overall. Report format does not appear to impact viewing time or percent correct answers, but there are differences in both for specialty and level of experience. There were also differences between the four groups of participants with respect to what they focus on in a radiology report and how they read reports (skim versus read in detail). There may not be a “one-size-fits-all” radiology report format as individual preferences differ widely.
Radiology reporting; Workflow; Communication
Reject analysis was performed on 288,000 computed radiography (CR) image records collected from a university hospital (UH) and a large community hospital (CH). Each record contains image information, such as body part and view position, exposure level, technologist identifier, and—if the image was rejected—the reason for rejection. Extensive database filtering was required to ensure the integrity of the reject-rate calculations. The reject rate for CR across all departments and across all exam types was 4.4% at UH and 4.9% at CH. The most frequently occurring exam types with reject rates of 8% or greater were found to be common to both institutions (skull/facial bones, shoulder, hip, spines, in-department chest, pelvis). Positioning errors and anatomy cutoff were the most frequently occurring reasons for rejection, accounting for 45% of rejects at CH and 56% at UH. Improper exposure was the next most frequently occurring reject reason (14% of rejects at CH and 13% at UH), followed by patient motion (11% of rejects at CH and 7% at UH). Chest exams were the most frequently performed exam at both institutions (26% at UH and 45% at CH) with half captured in-department and half captured using portable x-ray equipment. A ninefold greater reject rate was found for in-department (9%) versus portable chest exams (1%). Problems identified with the integrity of the data used for reject analysis can be mitigated in the future by objectifying quality assurance (QA) procedures and by standardizing the nomenclature and definitions for QA deficiencies.
Reject analysis; quality assurance; digital radiography
OBJECTIVE. Our objective is to emphasize the importance of work flow redesign, rather than filmless operation itself, to achieve cost reduction and improvement in productivity with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). CONCLUSION. Our 8-year experience with PACS shows that the greatest benefit of the transition to a digital system has been the ability to use it as a tool to reengineer overall work flow, both in the imaging department and throughout the health care enterprise.
The purpose of this report is to determine what effect filmless operation has on technologist productivity when compared with traditional film-based operation. Retrospective data on technologist productivity was collected from the study institution before and after implementation of PACS using workload reports and payroll records. Departmentwide technologist productivity was defined as the number of examinations per full-time equivalent (exams/FTE) and correlated with local and nationwide standards operating in traditional film-based operations. During filmbased operation, technologist productivity was comparable between the study institution and nationwide standards, allowing for the unique examination volumes and modality mix. After implementation of a large-scale PACS, technologist productivity was found to increase 34% above that of national standards and 48% that of the local control site. Implementation of an enterprisewide PACS offers the potential to significantly improve departmentwide technologist productivity when compared with traditional film-based operation.
picture archival and communications system; technologist productivity
The Radiological Society of North America has launched a project called the Medical Image Resource Center (MIRC) to establish a community of Webbased libraries of imaging information, including teaching files, other educational materials, and research data. This system would enable radiologic professionals to create and publish such materials more easily and to gain more convenient access to new and existing materials. An overview of the project, a brief summary of the overall requirements and objectives, and a brief description of the progress and ongoing plans for MIRC are presented.
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has initiated a long-term project called the Medical Image Resource Center (MIRC). The overall goal of the effort is to create an on-line library of medical images and related information and to maintain and index a number of other medical image resources. The rationale for the project, a summary of the overall requirements and objectives, and a finally a brief description of the future plans for MIRC are presented.
With the advent of electronic imaging and the internet, the ability to create, search, access, and archive digital imaging teaching files has dramatically improved. Despite the fact that a picture archival and communication system (PACS) has the potential to greatly simplify the creation of, archival, and access to a department or multifacility teaching file, this potential has not yet been satisfactorily realized in our own and most other PACS installations. Several limitations of the teaching file tools within our PACS have become apparent over time. These have, at our facility, resulted in a substantially reduced role of the teaching file tools for conferences, daily teaching, and research purposes. With the PACS at our institution, academic folders can only be created by the systems engineer, which often serves as an impediment to the teaching process. Once these folders are created, multiple steps are required to identify the appropriate folders, and subsequently save images. Difficulties exist for those attempting to search for the teaching file images. Without pre-existing knowledge of the folder name and contents, it is difficult to query the system for specific images. This is due to the fact that there is currently no fully satisfactory mechanism for categorizing, indexing, and searching cases using the PACS. There is currently no easy mechanism to save teaching, research, or clinical files onto a CD or other removable media or to automatically strip demographic or other patient information from the images. PACS vendors should provide much more sophisticated tools to create and annotate teaching file images in an easy to use but standard format (possibly Radiological Society of North America’s Medical Image Resource Center [MIRC] format) that could be exchanged with other sites and other vendors’ PAC systems. The privilege to create teaching or conference files should be given to the individual radiologists, technologists, and other users, and an audit should be kept of who has created these files, as well as keep track of who has accessed the files. Vendors should maintain a local PACS library of image quality phantoms, normal variants, and interesting cases and should have the capability of accessing central image repositories such as the RSNA’s MIRC images. Commercial PAC systems should utilize a standard lexicon to facilitate the creation and categorization of images, as well as to facilitate sharing of images and related text with other sites. This should be combined with a very easy to use mechanism to write images and related text when appropriate onto removable media (while maintaining a high level of security and confidentiality) to make it easier to share images for teaching, research, or clinical purposes.
The purpose of this study was to establish data points (benchmarks) to incorporate into a pro-forma cost analysis model, comparing film-based and filmless modes of operation. Prospective data were collected over a 6-year period at the Baltimore VA Medical Center (BVAMC) immediately before and after implementation of a hospital-wide PACS. These data were in turn compared with local and national VA centers during comparable time periods, to establish reference data between manual film-based (without PACS) and filmless operations (using PACS). Benchmarks utilized for the study fell into 2 broad categories: operational costs and revenues generated. Factors contributing to operational costs include space requirements, equipment, supplies, personnel, and maintenance. Factors contributing to revenues generated included examination volume, modality mix, and reimbursement rates. Collectively, these data points were incorporated into a pro-forma model that allows prospective PACS customers to compare total cost of ownership for film-based and filmless operations dependent on the unique variables of the respective institution.
PACS; medical economics; model, filmless; benchmark; cost; benefit
The objective of the study was to evaluate current marketplace conditions and strategies employed by major picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) vendors in the creation of alternative financing strategies, to enhance the diffusion of filmless imaging. Data were collected from the major PACS vendors in the forms of survey questionnaires and review of existing leases. Topics evaluated in the survey included current financing options available, foreseeable changes in PACS financing, role of third-party financiers, and creation of risk-sharing arrangements. Generic leases were also reviewed evaluating the presence or absence of several key variables including technology obsolescence protection, hardware/soft-ware upgrades, end-of-term options, determination of fair market value, functionality/acceptance testing, uptime guarantees, and workflow management consulting. Eight of the 10 PACS vendors surveyed participated in the data collection. The vast majority of current PACS implementations (60% to 90%) occur through direct purchase, with conventional leasing (operating or capital) accounting for only 5% to 30% of PACS installations. The majority of respondents view fee-for-lease arrangements and other forms of risk sharing as increasing importance for future PACS financing. The specific targets for such risk-sharing arrangements consist of small hospital and privately owned imaging centers. Leases currently offered range in duration from 3 to 5 years and frequently offer technology obsolescence protection with upgrades, multiple end-of-term options, and some form of acceptance testing. A number of important variables frequently omitted from leases include uptime guarantees, flexibility in changing financing or vendors, and incorporation of expected productivity/operational efficiency gains. As vendors strive to increase the penetration of PACS into the radiology marketplace, there will be a shift from conventional financing (loan or purchase) to leasing. Fee-for-use leasing and other forms of risk sharing have the greatest potential in smaller hospitals, which do not have the financial resources to pursue conventional financing options. Potential PACS customers must be cautious when entering into these alternative financing strategies, to ensure that appropriate safeguards are incorporated, in order to minimize downside risk.
The purpose of this study was to survey radiologists experienced in soft-copy diagnosis using computer workstations about their current reading room environment, their impressions of the efficacy of their reading room design, and their recommendations based on their experience for improvement of the soft-copy reading environment. Surveys were obtained from radiologists at seven sites representing three major picture archiving and communication system (PACS) vendors throughout the world that have had extensive experience with soft-copy interpretation of radiology studies. The radiologists filled out a detailed survey, which was designed to assess their current reading room environment and to provide them with the opportunity to make suggestions about improvement of the PACS reading rooms. The survey data were entered into a database and results were correlated with multiple parameters, including experience with PACS, types of modalities interpreted on the system, and number of years of experience in radiology. The factors judged to be most important in promoting radiologist productivity were room lighting, monitor number, and monitor brightness. Almost all of the radiologists indicated that their lighting source was from overhead rather than indirect or portable light sources. Approximately half indicated they had the capability of dimming the brightness of the overhead lighting. Most radiologists indicated that they were able to adjust room temperature but that they did not have individual temperature controls at their workstations. The radiologists indicated that the most troublesome sources of noise included background noise, other radiologists, and clinicians much more than noise from computer monitors, technologists, or patients. Most radiologists did not have chairs that could recline or arm rests. Most did have wheels and the capability to swivel, both of which were judged important. The majority of chairs also had lumbar support, which was also seen to be important. Radiologists commonly adjusted room lighting and their reading chair, but rarely adjusted room temperature or monitor brightness. The median number of hours spent at the workstation before taken a “break” was 1.5. Common recommendations to improve the room layout included compartmentalization of the reading room and availability of the hospital/radiology information system at each workstation. The survey data suggest several areas of potential improvement based on radiologists’ experience. Optimization of soft-copy reading room design is likely to result in decreased fatigue and increased productivity.
The purpose of the study was to determine the frequency and causes of unsuccessful computed tomography (CT) transmissions in a filmless imaging department and to determine the added efficiency gains provided by the sequential addition of modality worklist software and a major network upgrade. Prospective data on CT transmission error rates were recorded over an 18-month period. During the study interval, modality worklist functionality was added, followed by a network upgrade. Failed transmissions were categorized as to the source of the error (humanv technical), and the specific problem encountered. Prior to the introduction of modality worklist software, the initial CT transmission failure rate was 7.6%, which was primarily the result of human error (69%), in the form of data entry error. Upon the introduction of modality worklist software, the transmission failure rate decreased to 3.5%, with human error accounting for only 16% of all failed transmissions. The subsequent addition of a network upgrade from shared Ethernet to switched Ethernet further reduced the transmission failure rate to 2.0%, which was believed to be the result of a reduction in the number of network collisions. Other sources of failed transmission occur at the levels of the CT scanner (network interface card), picture archiving and communication system (PACS)/hospital information system (HIS) interface, and modality gateway. When planning the transmission from film-based to filmless operation, one should consider various hardware, software, and infrastructural requirements to ensure successful PACS implementation. Software upgrades, in the form of modality worklist software, serve to improve technologist productivity by minimizing data entry error. Infrastructural changes, in the form of network upgrading, ensure proper dissemination of electronic data with decreased frequency of network collisions. Collectively, these improvements lead to enhanced transmission of digital images, resulting in productivity gains within the filmless CT department.
The acquisition of expensive equipment such as picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) becomes increasingly difficult as capital budgets become tighter. Traditional ownership financing options in the form of direct purchase or financing (loan) have several limitations including technology obsolescence, higher fixed pricing, limited options for equipment disposal, and the need to tie up valuable capital. Alternative financing options, in the form of conventional lease and risk sharing arrangements, offer several theoretical advantages including technology obsolescence protection in the form of built-in upgrades, preservation of borrowing power, multiple end-of-term options, and payment flexibility (which can be directly tied to realized productivity and operational efficiency gains). These options are discussed, with emphasis on the acquisition of PACS.
picture archiving and communication systems; medical economics; purchase; lease; financing
The objective of this paper is to identify current trends in the development and implementation of computer applications in today’s ever-changing healthcare environment. Marketing strategies are discussed with the goal of promoting computer applications in radiology as a means to advance future healthcare acceptance of technologic developments from the medical imaging field. With the rapid evolution of imaging and information technologies along with the transition to filmless imaging, radiologists must assume a proactive role in the development and application of these advancements. This expansion can be accomplished in a number of ways including Internet based educational programs, research partnerships, and professional membership in societies such as the Society of Computer Applications in Radiology (SCAR). Professional societies such as SCAR, in turn, should reach out to include other professionals from the healthcare community. These would include financial, administrative, and information systems, disciplines to promote these technologies in a cost conscious and value added manner.
Radiographs are ordered and interpreted for immediate clinical decisions 24 hours a day by emergency physicians (EP’s). The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations requires that all these images be reviewed by radiologists and that there be some mechanism for quality improvement (QI) for discrepant readings. There must be a log of discrepancies and documentation of follow up activities, but this alone does not guarantee effective Q.I. Radiologists reviewing images from the previous day and night often must guess at the preliminary interpretation of the EP and whether follow up action is necessary. EP’s may remain ignorant of the final reading and falsely assume the initial diagnosis and treatment were correct. Some hospitals use a paper system in which the EP writes a preliminary interpretation on the requisition slip, which will be available when the radiologist dictates the final reading. Some hospitals use a classification of discrepancies based on clinical import and urgency, and communicated to the EP on duty at the time of the official reading, but may not communicate discrepancies to the EP’s who initial read the images. Our computerized radiology department and picture archiving and communications system have increased technologist and radiologist productivity, and decreased retakes and lost films. There are fewer face-to-face consultations of radiologists and clinicians, but more communication by telephone and electronic annotation of PACS images. We have integrated the QI process for emergency department (ED) images into the PACS, and gained advantages over the traditional discrepancy log. Requisitions including clinical indications are entered into the Hospital information System and then appear on the PACS along with images and readings. The initial impression, time of review, and the initials of the EP are available to the radiologist dictating the official report. The radiologist decides if there is a discrepancy, and whether it is category I (potentially serious, needs immediate follow-up), category II (moderate risk, follow-up in one day), or category III (low risk, follow-up in several days). During the working day, the radiologist calls immediately for category I discrepancies. Those noted from the evening, night, or weekend before are called to the EP the next morning. All discrepancies with the preliminary interpretation are communicated to the EP and are kept in a computerized log for review by a radiologist at a weekly ED teaching conference. This system has reduced the need for the radiologist to ask or guess what the impression was in the ED the night before. It has reduced the variability in recording of impressions by EP’s, in communication back from radiologists, in the clinical follow-up made, and in the documentation of the whole QI process. This system ensures that EP’s receive notification of their discrepant readings, and provides continuing education to all the EP’s on interpreting images on their patients.