Report from AHRA: RIS evolves to reflect growing integration of medical information

August 5, 2004

Radiology information systems are morphing to meet the demands of increasing hospital information systems interconnectivity by offering added functionality and varying levels of integration, according to a presentation at the 2004 American Healthcare

Radiology information systems are morphing to meet the demands of increasing hospital information systems interconnectivity by offering added functionality and varying levels of integration, according to a presentation at the 2004 American Healthcare Radiology Administrators meeting this week in Boston.

The implementation of electronic medical records that span the hospital enterprise is demanding higher levels of integration from radiology information systems (RIS) that had previously only serviced the radiology department.

And while radiology departments may be pondering the purchase or upgrade of a PACS, it is important to be aware of the different options they have for updating or purchasing a RIS as well, said Rex Osborn of the First Consulting Group, Alpharetta, GA.

"RIS are not islands of information anymore," Osborn said.

Osborn pointed out that today's RIS solutions have a host of new capabilities:
· virtual master jackets
· mammography modules
· multimedia links for the Web and images
· integration with the PACS and the enterprise-wide clinical data repository
· Web functionality for remote access

Three categories of RIS vendors are in the market today, and each type addresses a specific level of integration.

The stand-alone solution, which Osborn dubbed a "best of breed" implementation, is a RIS-only product. These products can have a higher level of functionality since they are designed specifically to meet a radiology department's needs, he said. While some RIS-only products, especially older ones, may have trouble integrating with other hospital systems, RIS-only vendors work with third parties or have their own integration tools to make their products easier to integrate.

The second category consists of integrated RIS solutions that come bundled with a vendor's enterprise-wide hospital information system products. Because these RIS products are bundled with other products, they tend to occupy a larger portion of the market than their stand-alone counterparts, Osborn said.

Osborn labeled the third category of RIS vendors as RIS/PACS niche players. These systems have extensive storage and PACS capability for the imaging market segment, he said. Since these solutions are heavily oriented toward digital imaging, however, they may have limits in dealing with the enterprise as a whole.

When choosing one type of RIS implementation, departments must consider how the products handle several factors: scheduling, patient identification, patient profile/demographics, orders, changes, work lists, patient tracking, results reports and distribution, dictation/transcription, film management, department forms, management reports, mammography, exam management integration, and structured reporting.

Departments must communicate with vendors to determine what flavor of implementation will fit their needs. They may have to go with the RIS included with their hospital's HIS. Or they may look at a company's reputation or past performance.

But an important factor in finding the perfect fit is simply understanding what your department's needs are and clearly communicating that to the vendor, according to Osborn.