The goal of healthcare IT is to ensure all systems and applications within a healthcare system work smoothly together for organized, seamless data flow. The first step to achieving such a goal is to understand your current workflow.
The technology used in imaging centers and radiology practices, in particular, is rapidly evolving, and the technology changes affect both the front-end and back-end radiology workflows. The front-end workflows are affected by ever changing imaging and modality technology advancements while the back-end workflows are affected by advancements in information technology. Keeping up with the changes can be a challenge.
For example, in the back-end of an imaging center the workflow might resemble the following:
- Schedulers manually enter orders on the radiology information system (RIS) or orders move into the RIS electronically from external referring physicians or hospital systems.
- Those orders flow to various internal systems such as the picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and a voice recognition (VR) application.
- The images are acquired:
- Modalities query the modality work list manager.
- Once the procedure is completed, images are returned to PACS.
- A radiologist reads the images and dictates the results into a VR application.
- A radiologist self-corrects and approves the reports.
- The reports are distributed to RIS, PACS, Billing and the applicable referring locations.
In an imaging center, clinical data must move to and from multiple systems. Even though the workflow is unique for each imaging center, the need to transfer clinical data is not. The moving of data is where HL7 interfaces can make the most headway towards bridging the gap for interoperability and creating that organized and seamless data flow.
Using an HL7 integration approach to move clinical data between applications helps:
- Optimize information systems
- Reduce errors in multiple, manual entries
- Maximize radiology workflow
- Facilitate growth through an efficient workflow
Whatever applications and systems are used to perform the tasks necessary in your imaging center, there is still a need to make the data flow to the right place at the right time based on the capabilities of those systems. With greater requirements for RIS-driven workflow and data exchanges with referring physicians, the HL7 Standard plays a prominent role in automating the radiology workflow.