The advent of the true VNA, part 2

You might think you have healthcare imaging under control, but think again. Chances are, you don’t. Most healthcare imaging solutions simply create new imaging silos.

Here is the second and final part of my series on the advent of the true VNA and how a VNA platform strategy can help.

Healthcare has made great strides!

Healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) have made monumental strides in embracing and deploying health information technology over the past 15 to 20 years. It seems like only yesterday we were discussing how important it was to eliminate the silos of clinical information that existed within our healthcare organizations. Accessing these departmental-based systems was complex and required unique applications and access that often provided only narrow departmental benefits and virtually no enterprise benefit.

But successful EMR implementations have allowed healthcare facilities to integrate clinical information across their organizations, improving access to critical information and eliminating the silos that once existed within departmental applications. It’s pretty amazing how far we have come over this period and how HDOs today are better positioned for the major changes on the horizon for healthcare service delivery.

However, several challenges remain when it comes to harnessing much of the unstructured information needed for health care decision-making. Despite the billions of dollars invested in IT by HDOs, there remains a frightening amount of unstructured health information that is still unmanaged. Traditional PACS approaches don’t easily extend images to point-of-care clinicians and don’t typically manage non-DICOM medical image formats (e.g. JPEG, MPEG, PDF, etc.) effectively.

These non-DICOM medical images can offer significant clinical value. Unfortunately, today, much of this information remains locked in silos, largely inaccessible to the enterprise. In fact, estimates by the end of 2017 have shown that 75 percent of all imaging data needed will be non-DICOM information, according to a 2013 IHS VNA study.

Are we repeating the mistakes of the past?

One of the primary reasons we still face this problem is that traditional PACS solutions have replicated the departmental problems HDOs had before the deployment of EMR applications. Today, many HDOs have multiple silos of imaging information deployed across their organizations.

Similar to the departmental systems of the past, these traditional PACS solutions operate on independent proprietary platforms that serve as point solutions for different specialty areas across the HDO. These systems have been acquired to satisfy specific specialty department needs, but shackling these systems to individual departments only serves to perpetuate the silo effect. This approach just contributes to the lack of an enterprise medical imaging solution within today’s HDO and limits access to all medical imaging solutions that exist within these organizations.

Today, to prepare for the changes in healthcare delivery and reimbursement challenges that are coming, we have to position our imaging solutions as enterprise applications following the same model that we deployed for EMRs. With the advent of the true VNA and implementing an EMI strategy, HDOs have an opportunity to take ownership of their imaging data, improve access, better ensure security, and reduce the cost of ownership of imaging solutions throughout their entire enterprise.

HDOs need an enterprise imaging strategy!

In my first post, I discussed how traditional PACS approaches could create complexity due to the proprietary nature of these applications. I also shared some key attributes that a true VNA should contain. A true VNA needs to address how imaging data can be stored, accessed, migrated, shared, secured, and managed. The true VNA offers the HDO the opportunity to do within their enterprise with imaging what EMRs accomplished with consolidating departmental systems.

A true VNA also offers an important differentiator to HDOs allowing them to unleash the value of imaging solutions within their organizations and address imaging as an important enterprise solution for shared clinical decision-making. A true VNA offers an integrated solution allowing HDOs to develop an enterprise imaging strategy that can also position them for greater image sharing solutions and eliminate traditional PACS solutions that can’t participate in an integrated enterprise imaging approach.

Some key characteristics of a true VNA include the following:

1. It can be integrated in a way to align their imaging investment as an enterprise investment within HDOs.

2. It improves the opportunity to interoperate with other systems.

3. It expands the capture of both DICOM and non-DICOM information from other specialty departments.

4. It seemlessly integrates imaging information with EMR investments.

5. It reduces the cost of these solutions through better and smarter investments in these technologies.

Among the most important attributes of a true VNA is that the VNA must be vendor-neutral even to itself. Limiting opportunities for proprietary approaches can continue to lock HDOs into locked and blocked solutions that can limit how enterprise imaging solutions can support their organization’s enterprise.

With the advent of the true VNA, HDOs have a great opportunity to take ownership of their enterprise medical imaging information, expand opportunities for image sharing, and reduce the cost of imaging across their organizations.

Considering these facts, an argument can be made that we’ve reached a tipping point where we once again need to focus on eliminating silos. This time, however, the focus needs to be placed on replacing imaging silos. These are the departmental imaging systems that aren’t interoperable and don’t participate in an integrated enterprise approach. An EMI strategy with a true VNA at the core can integrate all clinical images throughout the HDO.

A true VNA can put the HDO on an enterprise imaging path that can reduce costs through the consolidation of imaging silos within their organizations. The VNA can also offer an interoperable solution that enables the capture of both DICOM and non-DICOM content. A true VNA – when combined with visualization tools for enterprise-wide viewing, a workflow management solution, and the capabilities of information sharing – can provide the HDO with a flexible platform that allows them to adjust to the challenges of healthcare delivery quickly.

You can learn more about the capabilities that define a true VNA by reviewing our Definitive VNA Checklist.

Phil Wasson

Phil Wasson

Phil Wasson, FACHE, is a healthcare industry manager and consultant at Hyland. His mission is to develop content and create alignment with healthcare organizations focusing on information management and imaging solutions so healthcare organizations can realize more efficient operations that improve patient care. Phil joined Hyland after a three-year stint at Lexmark Healthcare as a consultant, and later as a healthcare industry manager. Phil has more than 25 years leading healthcare IT functions as a CIO and holds a fellowship in Healthcare Management with the American College of Healthcare Administrators. He received his B.S. in Healthcare Management from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, IL.

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