3 Imaging Issues for Hospital Executives to Address

Hospital executives put a great deal of effort into developing, implementing and evaluating a hospital's health information management. With so many initiatives to pursue — meaningful use attestation, telehealth and telemedicine, health IT infrastructure and data governance just to name a few — hospital executives can easily lose sight of some key health IT issues that need attention. According to Joe Marion, principal of Healthcare Integration Strategies, imaging is a major aspect of health IT that is often overlooked. However, imaging capabilities are increasingly important to meaningful use, health information exchanges and mobile health.

Here Mr. Marion discusses three imaging implications that hospital executives should not forget when addressing health information management.

1. Prepare for imaging requirements in meaningful use. Hospital CEOs need to be conscious of how to prepare for meaningful use stage 2 requirements, especially the requirements that involve imaging. While many hospitals and health systems have electronic medical record systems, most are not as well prepared to address enterprise-wide imaging needs. "Much of the imaging for hospitals has been dependent on image service developers. If stage 2 includes the proposed imaging requirements, hospital executives need to be thinking about a plan," says Mr. Marion.

2. Take imaging beyond DICOM and the "ology" services.
Hospital executives need to think about developing a solution to offer imaging for services outside of radiology and cardiology. According to Mr. Marion, imaging has been focused in the "ology" services because those areas follow the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine standard — a set of standards developed in 1983 by the American College of Radiology and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association for transferring images and associated information between various vendors.

"Most hospitals today encompass the ability to support the DICOM standard, which is great for services like radiology and cardiology, but what do you do for the areas not addressed by DICOM?" asks Mr. Marion. While a radiologist can tap into a PACS solution for a chest film image or a CT scan and place it into an EMR system, a dermatologist cannot do that as easily. Exchanging the bitmap and jpeg image formats used by dermatologists or other specialists has not been addressed. There is no standard for integrating those images into a patient's electronic record. "Hospitals need to think beyond DICOM in context of universal enterprise imaging solutions," says Mr. Marion.

3. Incorporate imaging into mHealth rules, regulations.
According to Mr. Marion, since many hospitals are developing rules and regulations for mHealth, they need to include considerations for image sharing via mHealth as well. "Imagine how many images could leave the hospital via a smart phone," says Mr. Marion. "In addition, if stage 2 does include imaging requirements, it will suggest new mechanisms for providing patients access to their images," Mr. Marion continued. mHealth could be a mechanism for addressing the meaningful use patient engagement requirement.

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