Confronting complexity in imaging

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 - Marty Khatib, JD, RT
Marty Khatib, JD, RT

Things are a bit complicated in healthcare, to say the least.

Whether it’s additional regulations, a competitive market or changing patient demographics, care delivery is becoming more complex every year. Thankfully, the tools to help physicians deal with the challenges have also evolved.

Marty Khatib, JD, RT, is keenly aware of the demands facing medical imaging as the director of imaging services at Mercy San Juan Medical Center and functional lead for hospital imaging in Dignity Health’s Greater Sacramento, Calif., service area. He notes that today’s dynamic environment can only be navigated with the right people and technology.

“Imaging plays a very key role in the lifecycle of diagnosis and treatment because we have some of the best tools to provide early detection, so therefore our services are constantly in demand,” says Khatib. “That makes our performance even more mission-critical. I think it’s imperative that we have the right innovative technology and the right partners.”

Clearing the hurdles

What, specifically, does Khatib see as the biggest hurdles for radiology to clear? It’s essentially a three-pronged effort. First, the regulatory environment keeps changing, with one of the more significant developments being the upcoming CMS requirement that all high-end imaging, such as CT or MRI, undergo some sort of evidence-based clinical decision support review. This mandate, recently delayed but likely to go into effect sometime in 2017, will bring interesting and constructive change to the imaging environment, predicts Khatib.

“Providers will have to have solutions in place that will provide dynamic research and recommendations when they are considering certain diagnosis and ordering advanced modality imaging procedures,” he says.

Second, the changing reimbursement challenges require an even more efficient and effective tactical and operational effort. This is where all the important elements such as collaborative planning and implementation at all levels can lead to highly productive environments.

Finally, technology itself has transformed care as it seeks to improve it. Digital environments demand enterprise-level strategies. Radiology and healthcare in general, must not operate in silos anymore.

Tools for working at the enterprise level

To meet these challenges, Khatib says his organization looks for specific capabilities in its Medical Imaging IT investments.

“We required a partnership with a vendor who had an enterprise solution that would allow us to reconcile geographical constraints,” he says. For example, the enterprise worklist on the McKesson PACS used at Khatib’s organization allows radiologists across multiple locations to prioritize their attention to the most urgent cases in their queue. Moreover, subspecialty reads can be better managed using this technology which has led to superior outcomes in quality and turnaround times.

“Especially as telemedicine expands its footprint in healthcare, that sort of intelligent functionality is key to providing appropriate access for patients,” says Khatib.

Another key element is making sure that essential systems can be integrated and interfaced with new software, even from other companies. Khatib explains this was a priority in working with McKesson, and the vendor has been very open to integration with other software that can complement workflows.

“The golden rule for technology adoption for us has always been that you want to purchase technology that complements your current state workflow, rather than the other way around. This approach provides the most innovative opportunity and flexibility,” says Khatib. “In healthcare, we could always use more flexibility because we always have to do more with less.”