The Renaissance of the RIS

November 27, 2012

CHICAGO - Radiology Information Systems are getting new attention, and more advancements are coming to this radiology workhorse tool.

CHICAGO - For several years, radiology has largely considered RIS to be a technology that has reached its limits. But the light of development is once again shining on this workhorse tool. And, according to industry experts, even more advancements are coming.

“Today’s RIS doesn’t handle your advanced workflow well,” said Paul Nagy, PhD, director of quality in Johns Hopkins University’s radiology department. “But, there’s a renaissance of functionality coming for the RIS that wasn’t there before. An increasing number of vendors are beginning to develop new RIS systems.”

In the future, he said, your RIS will not only be able to handle advanced work flow, but it will also provide capabilities for peer review, second opinions, discrepancy reporting, and notifications for when patients return for follow-up visits.

The search function in your RIS will also likely improve. Currently, it can take up to 10 seconds for the system to retrieve requested work lists. Commercial vendors are now working to make data retrieval with your RIS even easier, he said.

“It will be Google meets the RIS,” Nagy said. “The ability will be to search quickly - instantly. It’s a great idea of indexing all this patient information and having the data at your fingertips. Such powerful search tools don’t exist in traditional RIS, but it’s coming and will spread throughout the industry.”

The new developments in RIS technology will also enhance your access to a patient’s clinical history, as well as your connection to your facility’s electronic health record. Not only will you be able to pull up nursing notes, admission and discharge information, and lab reports, but you will also be able to tap into all relative, prior films in a patient’s record. Having that kind of access today is a luxury, he said, but in the not-to-distant future, you likely won’t consider making a full diagnosis without first consulting data from your RIS.

The benefits of RIS enhancements will also extend outside the needs of your individual practice or department. Nagy anticipates they will connect you to referring physicians where they work - chiefly on their mobile devices. Current surveys reveal that more than 70 percent of physicians have an iPhone, and roughly 60 percent have an iPad or other tablet. Secure applications on these mobile devices are the perfect technological platforms for teleconsulting with physicians on rounds, he said. It’s a way of reaching other specialties when it’s impossible to discuss cases face-to-face.

Each of these new capabilities will enhance the role radiologists play in healthcare, Nagy said. With improved RIS, providers can help lead their colleagues through health care’s shift to electronic communication.

“The RIS is not dead because radiology is so far ahead of other departments and other practices,” he said. “This functionality will become useful for other departments, because right now they’re still stuck on transferring data from paper to electronic form. We have a sea of data already that we can mine. Radiologists have the tools and technological maturity to take the next step and be a value innovator in the field.”