Regional PACS sprouts from imaging center

October 19, 2005

Inland Imaging center in Spokane has found a unique way to avoid the usual friction between hospitals and radiology groups by hosting a PACS for its largest partner hospital.

Inland Imaging center in Spokane has found a unique way to avoid the usual friction between hospitals and radiology groups by hosting a PACS for its largest partner hospital.

"It's tough to develop market share, tough to develop relationships, tough to do contracting for a single stand-alone entity," said Inland CIO Jon Copeland. "But if you can partner with a hospital that needs help in outpatient imaging and that's all you do, then it's a win-win."

Shortly after installing its PACS in 2000, Inland began hosting PACS using an application service provider pay-per-use financial model for its largest partner, Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. Since then, they've extended the service to about a dozen other hospitals in the region, mostly smaller rural community facilities that aren't in a position to acquire their own PACS. Inland even shares its PACS with a competing radiology group across the Idaho line, 30 miles away in Coeur d'Alene.

The Coeur d'Alene group was approached because patients move back and forth between medical centers in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, and Inland thought it might be a good idea to share a common PACS, Copeland said.

"As long as you are HIPAA-compliant, it makes for an incredible improvement in patient care having our outpatient centers, the largest hospital in Spokane, many of the rural hospitals in the region, and a competing radiology group all on a common PACS," he said.

Copeland admits people scratch their heads and wonder how Inland Imaging managed to pull it off.

"It just kind of happened," he said. "The timing was right, and people started signing up."

The group hasn't signed up everyone. A few entities have resisted.

"That's the way it is in most cities," Copeland said. "Hospitals and radiology groups don't want to share data because they use them as a competitive tool - not the best thing for patient care."

Copeland manages the system with a team of about 20 people, which oversees annual archive activity of over 600,000 exams.