Key Informatics Trends at RSNA 2011

Sectra’s vice president of research and development expects lots of conversations about meaningful use, practice consolidation, and teleradiology.

“Last year [at RSNA] I had three appointments booked to talk about ‘what is meaningful use?’. This year, half the customer base is asking very detailed questions about how our products can get them to meaningful use standards," said Kevin Collins, vice president of research and  development, Sectra North America Inc. “The meaningful use issue is going to be very hot.”

Collins said meaningful use, consolidation and teleradiology will be key issues during the 2011 RSNA.

As hot as meaningful use is, not everyone is jumping on board, he added, because it doesn’t always make sense. Sectra’s customers have “done the math,” he explained. For some, the expense of compliance, coupled with the possible negative workflow impact of typing in multiple qualifiers, means meaningful use simply isn’t worth the expense, Collins suggested. It might be a different matter if the meaningful use measurements seemed to actually improve the care of radiology patients, he added, but, for the most part, they are more relevant in a primary care setting.

Nonetheless, meaningful use does have radiology adopters, and Sectra is helping them by introducing a patient portal. “One of the requirements for meaningful use is to give patients timely access to their medical information,” Collins said. Through Sectra’s Diagnostic Imaging Suite, patient can now get read-only access to the demographic and insurance information, medications lists, allergies, a problem list, and even their exam history and clinical reports.

A second key trend in informatics is practice consolidation. “We have more and more customers with six or seven hospitals and they’re absorbing more,” Collins observed. The key issue for Sectra and other RIS vendors, then, is building products that are flexible enough to deal with the resulting overlap in systems and databases.

Market consolidation, Collins said, is not necessarily or even usually a reaction to new final regulations on accountable care organizations (ACOs). ACOs are only one kind of consolidation. “If you join an ACO,” Collins explained, “you join an ACO, you are no longer a profit center. You are a cost center.” If your goal is to control costs, it’s generally better to reduce, not expand, advanced imaging. Still, Collins noted, some radiology practices do think they can provide less-expensive and better quality care, but only a very few “are moving emphatically in that direction.”

For those who are interested in better quality and lower costs, ACO-related or not, Sectra’s Referring Physician Suite might help. Premiering at RSNA, the suite has embedded ACR appropriateness criteria, meant to help referring physicians identify and request the best imaging service for a given condition or suspected diagnosis.

Finally, Collins pointed out the growing influence of and increase in teleradiology services. “Contract-driven reading and workflows have become more important for information vendors to look at,” he said. Essentially, RIS/PACS vendors need to understand and prepare for the way their systems will work with teleradiology systems so that they integrate as well as possible.