Did you really want that scan? Automated system asks the question

February 1, 2007

One of our objectives at Diagnostic Imaging is to give our radiologist and administrator readers a look forward at some of the technology developments that will affect the way they practice.

One of our objectives at Diagnostic Imaging is to give our radiologist and administrator readers a look forward at some of the technology developments that will affect the way they practice. One article in our Enterprise Imaging & IT section fits this bill nicely.

Written by freelance editor Douglas Page, the article looks at how Massachusetts General Hospital has fashioned an electronic radiology order entry system and the impact it has had on practice ("Hospital finds tough road to ROE worth the effort," page S-9).

Although systems like this are beginning to catch on, they remain a rarity in most parts of the U.S. That's destined to change as our health system responds to the relentless drive to reduce costs and improve quality.

What Page found is that the ROE system has achieved those goals and more. Referring clinicians, for example, can schedule imaging procedures at the time of the patient visit through a calendaring system that lists openings. What really sets the system apart, though, is a decision support element that lets referring clinicians know whether the test they are ordering is the best way to obtain the information they want.

After the indications are entered, a numerical score shows whether the imaging exam is appropriate. It won't stop the clinician from ordering the test, but it raises a cautionary note and, according to MGH, has reduced the incidence of low-utility imaging exams.

Look for systems like this to become very popular with payers and hospital administrators alike.

Mr. Hayes is editor of Diagnostic Imaging.