Q&A: UMass Memorial Deploys Image/EHR Interoperability

Can you view medical images directly from your electronic health record? William Corbett, MD, vice president of community practices for UMass Memorial Health Care, discusses the center's decision to implement a system to allow just that, and the benefits they've expereinced so far.

Can you view medical images directly from your electronic health record? Do those two systems talk? The physicians at UMass Memorial Health Care, a five-facility academic medical center, wanted that interoperability and have implemented a system to allow them to view images from their EHR.

The UMass deployed Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Access in their ambulatory setting so physicians can view diagnostic-quality images from their Allscripts EHR.

William Corbett, MD, vice president of community practices for UMass Memorial Health Care, spoke with Diagnostic Imaging about how an interface between radiology images and EHR information is benefiting the practice and patients.

What made you all decide to implement such a solution?

I think the standard electronic health record has the report interfaced in, that’s pretty standard. To get the image in the electronic health record and readily available, previously would require a lot of memory, a lot of storage capacity. The image created a lot of memory problems. This solution gets around that by storing it on a separate service and locally caching it and allowing you to view the image with a direct link from the electronic health record without the storage problem you’d have if you put the image directly into the electronic health record.

What was the process like before this solution? Were images included in the electronic health record?

It was such a problem that it wasn’t done. People would have to go from one application to another. And when they would go to the other, they would have to sign on, create a new password, and search for the patient. So this product, with a single click you go into the Merge product and look up in the context of the patient and can get directly into their film.

What was the implementation like?

There was some pre-pilot planning where we had to build the interface and make sure the products talked to each other and test it. And that took four or five months. Then we did once we did a pilot we went pretty quickly to general availability. We did a pilot in December, or late November, and by early or mid January we began to roll it out more generally.

What have you seen are the greatest benefits of this solution?

It gets people to use the electronic health record, number one. And doctors look at it as value added. Some of the things they have to do in an electronic health record they look at as more work, so this all of a sudden created something that was less work but was very valuable. It’s good for patient care. It’s very intuitive. …

About a year ago we had something called Innovation Day where we looked at a number of products we could choose to use with Allscripts, our electronic health record, one of which was this image access product. Some of the others, I thought would be more important. We invited a number of our physician leaders to come to this Innovation Day and probably 100 people came. And the greatest buzz was about this product, compared to kiosks and quality reporting and other things that we may have to do anyway because we’ll need them for business reasons and meaningful use.

Why was there such buzz?

It improved the physicians’ experience. A lot of the focus of electronic health records hasn’t been there. We try to keep some of the focus there, [but] in practice we haven’t done that as well.