10 Questions to Ask Your Enterprise Imaging Vendor

Choosing a vendor for an enterprise imaging solution can be complex. Here’s what you need to inquire about to make the best choice for your organization.

Much has happened with enterprise imaging in recent years, but the one constant has been that facilities have individual and unique needs when it comes to finding the right platform. And, to find the right solution, you have to ask the right questions.

In a session during the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, Kim Garriott, chief innovation officer for NetApp Healthcare, walked through 10 questions you should pose to potential vendors – but, she pointed out, these queries are only a starting point.

“These suggestions are basic suggestions. Solutions have changed over time and what is provided varies from vendor to vendor, and the needs that you have, the priorities that you have as an organization will vary, as well,” she said. “Take this information as basic information, and see how you can apply it inside your organization.”

For more SIIM 2021 coverage, click here.

Here’s what she suggested you ask:

How does the enterprise imaging solution accommodate various orders- and encounters-based workflows?

Be sure your vendor can support both orders- and encounters-based workflows, she said. Focus on the discrete workflow needs of each of your service areas, and ask your potential vendor what consultation they can provide that will help you design these various workflows. It is likely the vendor has encountered a myriad of workflow designs, so draw from their experience to create what works best in your institution.

How does this solution leverage AI? What type of AI inference models are available?

Find out how the vendor can leverage current AI technologies to assist in your workflow and image interpretation. Ask if they have a marketplace with AI inference models that you can use within your organization, as well as what learning models they support.

How does the solution manage DICOM and non-DICOM images?

Whether your organizations uses DICOM or non-DICOM images, be sure you select a vendor that can work with you to retain your images. Be sure you have a good understanding of what their capabilities are.

What interoperability standards does the solution use and support?

Interoperability is critical to being able to provide the highest level of patient care, so when choosing a solution, be sure your choice has the highest degree of standards being applied to it. Can it support cross-enterprise document sharing? Does the company participate in some of the standards organizations as a way of staying abreast with what’s coming with interoperability in the future?

What are implementation and post-implementation support options?

Depending upon your needs and what solution you choose, you will likely need additional support from the company. Ask what training options are available – and at what cost – and whether the vendor can provide at-the-elbow support or if it will be offered by a third party. Your vendor should be able to offer support for the various types of workflow you have in your organization, but you should also ask if they will ever train you to build your own workflow configurations if you are interested in doing so. These details are critical to the success of your implementation and beyond, she said.

How does the solution design mitigate performance latency and workflow disruption?

Find out the time lag for delivery of images to the devices your radiologists use for image interpretation. In addition, ask about how the vendor pushes out upgrades. Do they support non-disruptive upgrades and maintenance? Will these activities need to take place after hours, and is there a charge for conducting maintenance during off hours? Having these details will help you design your internal support processes and determine budget allocations.

How often are solution enhancements/upgrades published?

Find out how long it takes for your enhancement requests to be integrated into any future design. Time frames on enhancements will vary from vendor-to-vendor and based upon the importance of the enhancement request. Also, ask how frequently your solution will be upgraded so you can plan appropriately.

What image life cycle management capabilities does the solution support?

Getting details about image life cycle management can help you design and coordinate your data and image retention. Will you be able to automatically tier data or age it off it if hasn’t been accessed for a certain period of time, and will you be able to implement rules that will move certain types of images, such as point-of-care ultrasound images used to support billing, to different tiers? As you generate more and more imaging data, you will need to understand your management capabilities.

What is the approach to data migration?

Data migration is an enormous and costly endeavor, and you need to know if your vendor will help you or if they will train you to do it on your own. Ask how long it will take and what you will be responsible for doing. Your vendor can also tell you what they can do to limit the number of images that must be moved and how they can make the migration as non-disruptive as possible.

How does the solution leverage cloud technology?

With the growing volume of imaging data, the cloud is here to stay, Garriott said. Bring your IT staff into the conversation, and ask a potential vendor how it can leverage the cloud for image retention and disaster recovery. Determine their road map for using the cloud and if they use a private cloud. Or, do they rely on a major provider, such as Google or Amazon, and will you be able to move your data between clouds.

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