“Medical imaging” once referred only to functions that took place in the radiology and cardiology departments.  But today, when healthcare executives talk about imaging strategies, those discussions are very different. Due to the proliferation of digital imaging technologies, the production of images is now taking place in as many as 40 service lines throughout modern healthcare systems.

This means tremendous numbers of images are being acquired by a vast array of disparate devices.  And it also means that every healthcare discipline has its own medical images, many of which are stored in siloed archives that are either incompatible or inaccessible to the very electronic health records (EHRs) you have been tasked with creating.

Now that the race to implement electronic health records is in its final lap, industrywide attention is being sharply focused on EHR optimization with a spotlight on the importance of using medical images in a way that provides meaningful use to both caregiver and patient alike. Therefore, it’s important to remember the following six tips when developing an effective enterprise imaging strategy, something which must quickly become a top-of-mind issue:

  1. Imagine the outcome: Details are the cornerstone of a well-executed enterprise imaging strategy, and it is those details, coupled with the ability to intelligently retrieve and analyze what has been collected, that will deliver actionable results to improve both patient care and clinician workflow and satisfaction in the end.
  1. Collect uniform data: When acquiring images, it’s critical to collect the same data about every image, something which requires considerable forethought as workflows are designed. The data collected about each image will play a significant role in the ability to provide data to the end user in a flexible, relevant format.
  1. Know your image users: When selecting enabling technologies or designing a program for image access and visualization, it’s important to understand the various categories of image users and to define the requirements for the viewer based on the needs of the viewing audience, from diagnosticians to clinical decision-makers, referential users, remote users and even patients.
  1. Prioritize use cases: When considering how images should be exchanged in cooperative care environments, identify the variety of use cases that will be supported by the image exchange program and prioritize according to positive impact, with an emphasis on reducing time to treatment.
  1. Decide early about native format storage: As images are generated, a decision must be made about whether or not they will be stored in their native formats or archived in a more standardized format like DICOM. There are advantages to each, something which IT and those needing access to the images must discuss and resolve early in the process.
  1. Continue good governance practices: Imaging is a rules-based endeavor that requires solid data governance policies. Governance is an enduring process within an enterprise imaging program. It does not end with the conclusion of the initial project or any subsequent projects.  It survives each of the projects and must continue forward, though not with the same level of intensity as in the initial projects. Governance of an enterprise imaging program will also be ongoing as needs arise to purchase devices, integrate third-party image management systems and, as time goes on, include new file types –audio, for example; a governance body will need to continually discuss new developments such as these to ensure that the integrity of the organization’s clinical imaging library remains intact.

Want to learn more? Get a brand-new eBook, “Driving Positive Change in Healthcare: An Effective Enterprise Imaging Strategy is a Key to Meaningful Use.” Then, listen to an informative interview as Kim Garriott, Principal Consultant, Healthcare Strategies, for Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, and Ascendian COO Jef Williams discuss today’s most effective enterprise imaging strategies in an eHealth Radio Network interview. You can also download an enterprise imaging datasheet and hear Kim Garriott describe what every healthcare organization needs to know about enterprise imaging