The transition to value-based care is pushing radiology beyond its traditional borders, and success in this new model is measured in better patient outcomes. In order to achieve those outcomes, radiologists and their colleagues in the hospital and referring community need broad access to both data and images. A more integrated, collaborative radiology workflow can connect both systems and people, which helps provide much-needed context for better patient care.

Here are four key elements of an integrated, value-based radiology workflow:

Key Elements of Radiology Workflow1. Make the Connection Between Images and the EHR

A holistic picture of a patient's health is a vital part of value-based care. Unlocking data that currently resides only in the EHR and making it available in a meaningful manner at the point of diagnosis is a game changer for diagnostic imaging departments. Today, radiologists struggle to find the balance between a PACS-driven workflow, which offers them rich viewing functionality, with the need for non-imaging data that gives them clinical context. In a recent survey from the National Center of Health Statistics, seventy-five percent of health care providers said integrated EHR information allows them to deliver better patient care. The goal of an integrated workflow is to make the right information from these two areas available together in order to set the stage for a higher quality, more correct diagnosis.

2. Viewing Software is Part of the Ecosystem

Just as non-imaging data from the EHR provides valuable context to radiologists in their diagnostic work, the reverse is also true. Images provide critical support for clinicians outside the radiology department and systems need to make these images accessible beyond the traditional departmental silo. More images are being captured than ever before and widespread access to these images helps a patient's care providers make accurate decisions about diagnosis and treatment.

A radiologist's PACS viewing software should include user-specific extended display protocols, viewing capability for volumetric CT and MRI and embedded mammography workflows along with native display of the extra imaging data these exams provide.  However, as part of their enterprise strategy, leaders should also consider how to make image viewing capability available for all users - even those outside radiology - and give them the appropriate functionality that supports their role on a patient's care team.

3. Remove Barriers to Communication with Interoperability

Departmental isolation in health care organizations increases the possibility of communication errors. These errors can occur at any point in the process, either within a single department or between departments or facilities. In some cases, transferring data between systems or locations requires manual, paper-based processes, which can be inefficient and susceptible to mistakes.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology of one health care system discovered that the majority of radiology communication errors occurred before results were communicated, and over 75% of those errors had the potential to negatively impact patient care.

A value-based workflow includes systems that communicate with each other and provide closed-loop communication so that all participants in a patient's care are informed and up to date. Regardless of the hardware or software vendor, the end result should be a seamless experience for the healthcare professional.

4. Use Intelligent Imaging and Workflow Management

Maintaining an efficient reporting workflow requires flexible workflow management tools. Radiology departments can benefit from a rules engine that dynamically prioritizes and assigns studies, automates quality processes such as peer review and critical results communication and tracks communication between providers. Organizations should look for radiology workflow management tools that use their own business rules as the basis for their workflow orchestration and management and that allow them to measure their performance and fine tune processes in order to resolve bottlenecks.

Value-based care demands more transparency on the part of radiologists. The radiology department is moving out of the basement and towards becoming a more integrated part of the health care system. Although this shift to a more patient-centric model is still evolving, the increased cooperation between healthcare professionals benefits all participants in the care continuum.

Regardless of a radiology department's existing tools, to move into a value-based world, its workflow should reflect elements like these.

This post originally published as Radiology Workflow in a Value-Based World on McKesson's Medical Imaging Talk Blog.

Related: Learn about McKesson's Radiology Solutions

Tomer Levy

About the author

Tomer Levy is a senior member of McKesson's Imaging and Workflow Solutions (IWS) executive team and currently serves as the General Manager, Workflow and Infrastructure. He comes with 16 years of experience in the field of Healthcare IT. In his different roles, he was involved in design, development and implementation of IT solutions for healthcare providers around the world. He graduated from the Executive MBA program in Tel Aviv University and holds a bachelors degree in Computer Science and Economics.