Technology for Improving Productivity and Efficiency

Konica Minolta leaders outline the challenges to – and discuss tech solutions for -- provider and IT productivity during SIIM2020.

Working remotely can be a challenge for any radiologist under the best of circumstances, but the current environment controlled by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for information technology (IT) solutions that can help providers and their staff maximize their productivity in this situation.

During SIIM2020, company leaders from vendor Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas, Inc., highlighted the challenges radiologists and their IT colleagues face when trying to streamline remote workstations and workflow, as well as some solutions to overcome these obstacles.

The Challenges

According to Chris Van Houten, Konica Minolta’s vice president of sales, radiologist and IT professionals face a myriad of problems when trying to create a seamless workflow that allows providers to download, access, and send out image files with ease. Every facility should be aware of these stumbling blocks so they can ensure any solution they choose addresses the pain points.

Related Content: How to streamline radiology workflow

In addition to the cost of updated technology, radiologists could find themselves facing these obstacles:

Slow load times: Without sufficient bandwidth, radiologists can find themselves waiting for images – particularly advanced images – to load into their system. This can bring productivity to a screeching halt, Van Houten said, as some files, such as 3D mammograms, can take up to 20 minutes to download. 

One big worklist: It is commonly said in the industry that it is imperative for the right radiologist to read the right study at the right time. Without a way to filter through studies in the worklist, meeting that goal can be difficult. For a streamlined workflow system, a worklist must include a filter so providers can sift through the waiting studies for the most urgent ones within their specialty area, he said.

Collaboration: Even the most up-to-date, tech savvy office can be stymied when working with referring clinicians or other collaborators that are relying on older technologies. In these situations, he said, it is harder to share all types of files. 

IT professionals also encounter their own stumbling blocks, Van Houten explained. In most situations, upgrading a workstation’s software means physically working with the machine. With many providers currently working remotely, IT departments have had to find ways to access and upgrade each system, and the process can be time consuming. Also, if an office purchases any new software, they must make sure that the workstations can be updated to leverage it appropriately.

The Solutions

Fortunately, said Kevin Borden, Konica Minolta’s vice president of product, the industry does offer two solutions to help radiology offices overcome these challenges. Pairing server-side rendering with zero-footprint viewers can pave the way for rapid, smooth workflow.

Server-side rendering (SSR): This solution eliminates the need for traditional workstations to process all the calculations needed associated with reading images. Instead of downloading images to the radiologist’s browser, SSR renders the images in the server and send it to the workstation, alleviating the stress from the workstation itself and allowing for faster downloading and processing.

“Server-side rendering does all of the heavy lifting that a traditional workstation had to do,” he said. “It performs all of the calculations, so your expensive powerful server-based workstations don’t really have to exist.”

Not only does this solution allow for large files and prior studies to be downloaded and accessed quickly, but it also side-steps the need to push whole sets of DICOM data to a workstation.

Zero-footprint viewer (ZFP): Implementing this technology requires no installation on workstations, and it functions on any operating system or browser. The high diagnostic quality and full tool set is available for use on any modality at any workstation, Borden explained, even for radiologists working remotely.

The Benefits

As with the challenges, radiologists and IT professionals experience their own unique benefits, especially when SSR and ZFP are combined, Borden said, in a product, such as Konica Minolta’s Exa® Enterprise Imaging.

For the radiologist, a combined platform makes accessing larger files, including 3D mammography or echocardiograms, much faster without any pre-fetching or moving data from workstation to workstation. It also frees the provider up – he or she is no longer strapped to a specific workstation because they can now view any modality from any location.

“The radiologist can pick up a laptop with an approved monitor, and as with any workstation before, hit a URL, log into the application, and begin reading remotely,” he said.

IT professionals also enjoy several benefits with an SSR+ZFP platform, Borden explained. By not having to physically touch workstation, their workload is significantly lighter. And, without installing applications or moving data around frequently, there is less strain on a department or office’s network, reducing utilization.

The benefit that has been most helpful during the pandemic, however, he pointed out, is that with this type of platform – with no installations or downloads required – once the appropriate equipment is in place, radiologists can begin to immediately read remotely.

“In today’s environment, that’s very important,” he said. “Before the pandemic and post-pandemic, the future needs to be now downloads or installations necessary.”

For more coverage of SIIM2020, click here.