Enabling Better Cardiac Care with Robust Enterprise Imaging

February 26, 2021
Tim Thomas, VP of Cardiology, FUJIFILM Medical Systems U.S.A., Inc.

For better cardiology services, providers must look beyond the existing cardiology PACS.

The statistics speak volumes. Approximately 30.3 million American adults have been diagnosed with heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moreover, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States — responsible for taking the lives of 659,041 people in 2019 alone.

U.S. cardiologists have their work cut out for them. The specialty ranks among the busiest and most demanding, with a large volume of cases, as well as the need to respond to emergencies quickly. Experts say the challenges of the next decades will be many as the prevalence of various heart diseases will remain high due to a range of factors. These include family history of heart disease, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking, for example.

With such a pressing task, cardiologists are seeking the best possible medical technologies to help them properly diagnose and treat patients and improve overall outcomes. Medical imaging has come a long way. Today’s cardiologists have cutting edge diagnostic imaging tools at their disposal, and that’s an important first step.

But, imaging is only as good as its availability or accessibility. Workflow challenges are among the biggest hurdles for today’s cardiologists. The inability for a clinician to see the studies he or she needs at any given moment can literally mean the difference between life and death for a patient.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the myriad of workflow obstacles in the cardiac care space. A robust enterprise imaging technology can offer speedy access to images. But, it can do a whole lot more, too, like increase efficiencies, enhance collaboration, boost patient engagement, and help drive better outcomes.

Cardiology Challenges Demand an Enterprise Solution

A specialty that currently treats more than 92 million Americans conducts an enormous amount of testing and imaging. Providing anywhere, anytime access to growing cardiology datasets is a tall order, and organizations are under pressure to make data secure and readily available, both inside and outside the organization.

Disparate imaging and reporting systems in various departments is often a challenge, too. To enhance collaborative care, cardiologists need to share images with radiologists and other specialists, but very often their viewing tools are different, impeding this process.

Add to this the fact that we live in an era of mergers and acquisitions, where uniting hospitals often brings legacy systems that don't connect with one another—making the sharing of images a cumbersome process.

Finally, in the cardiac care space, reporting can be burdensome. The need to manually populate increasing volumes of clinical information into reports creates a bottleneck on cardiologists’ clinical workflows.

The upshot: The traditional Cardiology PACS is no longer a sustainable tool. To enable the best possible cardiac care and support the entire healthcare organization, Cardiology PACS solutions must evolve to function as a comprehensive enterprise imaging system.

One such technology is Fujifilm’s Synapse 7x, a next-generation PACS visualization platform that unites radiology, cardiology, and enterprise imaging through a single, zero-footprint PACS viewer.

This best-in-breed technology supports interoperability and access to the whole patient record—and that’s making a difference in patient care. For cardio teams, it enables on-demand, secure access to the holistic patient record which is having a positive impact on both workflow efficiencies and clinical outcomes.

Case-in-Point:North Memorial Health

Minnesota-based North Memorial Health is one of the top-rated hospitals in the nation for cardiovascular care. North Memorial’s Heart & Vascular group is led by a distinguished team of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, ensuring professional expertise of the highest standard.

When it came to medical imaging and reporting efficiencies, the cardiac group struggled. As a large, multi-site health system, North Memorial’s workflow issues and pain points were many.

For starters, various departments were using disparate solutions—impeding smooth and speedy workflow. For example, the health system’s cath lab, echo lab, vascular lab and nuclear medicine department all connected to different imaging and reporting systems. In addition, the organization’s legacy application lacked reporting customization capabilities.

North Memorial knew it was time for a more modern solution, including enterprise imaging. The team opted to install Fujifilm’s Synapse Cardiology PACS, a next-generation server-side rendering solution designed specifically to help streamline image review and reporting across cardiovascular modalities.

Synapse Cardiology PACS was designed to improve cardiology PACS workflow. It was built with cardiologists—and cardiac patients—in mind. It includes a secure image management and reporting platform that meets the needs of busy cardiologists’ caseloads, affording them proper and efficient reporting to continuously advance the quality of patient care.

This powerful technology simultaneously streamlines cardiologists’ workflow, image review, and advanced reporting, eliminating bottlenecks and allowing more efficient care to flourish.

Enhanced Efficiencies, Collaboration, Patient Engagement

Addressing workflow problems with enterprise imaging technology really does have a direct link to improving cardiac care. The North Memorial team is experiencing many benefits thanks to Synapse Cardiology PACS.

The consolidation of all diagnostic cardiology images and data means cardiologists work more efficiently by having all relevant information on one platform at the time of reporting.

Advanced reporting templates are improving workflow, too. North Memorial physicians actually helped design templates that maximize efficiencies while they're reading—freeing up valuable time that can now be spent focusing on patient care.

And the server-side technology is exceptionally speedy. That means physicians can have their procedure report into the North Memorial Health EHR almost instantaneously.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that Synapse Cardiology PACS displays the complete patient record and provides access across cardiology and radiology PACS—a merge of cardiology and radiology imaging designed to improve clinical care. In fact, this dual ability is one of the things that makes the system so unique.

For example, cardiologists can evaluate a patient’s ECG in Synapse Cardiology alongside a chest X-ray in Synapse Radiology PACS—leading to quicker treatment decisions.

Clinicians can work anywhere, anytime and immediately see images they need to interpret. Instead of being limited to the cath lab, for example, they can access images and create reports from home.

Equally noteworthy, this enterprise solution enhances collaboration in cardiac care. With a single viewer, all providers have access to and view the same holistic patient picture. This makes it easier for physicians to work together, no matter where they are located.

Finally, the North Memorial team says Synapse Cardiology PACS lets them connect better and deeper with their patients.

As soon as it was installed, the technology led to improvements in patient communication and engagement. High-quality images can be printed, accessed, and shared on the spot with the patient. That helps patients to better understand their treatment plan and be more involved in their own wellness journey.

For example, showing a patient ‘before’ and ‘after’ images after a stent placement or other procedure can help encourage them to do their part to maintain their heart health with proper lifestyle changes.

The Future: Growing Caseloads

From atherosclerosis to arrhythmia, heart failure to heart attack, cardiovascular diseases are on the rise in the United States. By 2035, more than 130 million adults—or 45.1 percent of the U.S. population—are projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Clearly, cardiology is a specialty that will continue to be in high demand. As cardiologists contend with growing caseloads they will also encounter greater workflow challenges. Simply put, the Cardiology PACS of the past is limited and inflexible. The specialty requires a more robust, flexible, and secure workflow solution so cardiologists are freed up to do what they do best—care for patients.

Now is the time for providers to be proactive and seek out enterprise imaging technology that enables greater efficiencies, boosts collaborative care, and ultimately, drives better patient outcomes.

For more coverage based on industry expert insights and research, subscribe to the Diagnostic Imaging e-Newsletter here.