‘Digital dashboard’ could ease complex workflow challenges

June 2, 2005

A “digital dashboard” helps radiologists quickly identify workflow trouble spots and could improve image management processes, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

A "digital dashboard" helps radiologists quickly identify workflow trouble spots and could improve image management processes, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Managing workflow in a film environment was a simple process: It was fairly easy to look around a film room and find a stack of films that needed to be interpreted. In today's digital environment, however, the obvious cues for workflow have disappeared and have been replaced by a system that is more complex and more amorphous. It is not always clear in a digital setting which are stat reads from emergency rooms and which are less urgent, which reports have been interpreted and not signed, and which reading sites are overloaded and which are underused. What's needed is a system that summarizes key metrics and optimizes the user's ability to make decisions. "Dashboards" that monitor systems - like the dashboard in a car - are common in other businesses but have not widely affected radiology workflow, said Dr. Matthew B. Morgan, lead researcher in the Thursday presentation.The digital dashboards take over the task of monitoring operations using preset rules. Rather than having to frequently check the status of particular studies, radiologists can rely on a digital dashboard to alert them when action is needed. Such a system has been under development at UPMC since January and continues to be refined, Morgan said. Although the experiment is still in an early stage, staff are already seeing results from the feature that monitors unsigned reports. Among the other features the system could provide:

  • Workflow consolidation. The dashboard could monitor a radiologist's list of reports that have been dictated and transcribed but not signed. Other predefined, context-sensitive thresholds are possible, relieving the radiologist of the need to continually check report status.
  • Workload distribution. PACS allows workflow to be distributed to a number of different facilities, but work list filters are most frequently restricted to a single institution, and most systems require repeated checks to learn workload status and individual sites. A PACS-integrated dashboard could monitor the number of unclaimed studies and issue alerts when the numbers pass particular thresholds.
  • Urgency evaluation. PACS work list configurations tend to vary widely and can sometimes leave imaging studies languishing without attention. A dashboard that identifies studies from the emergency department, ICU, and hospital wards for special attention could help assure they receive timely attention.