As referrers seek efficient communications with radiologists, Direct Messaging offers a key solution

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 - Luke Bideaux, BSRT, RT (R), CIIP
Luke Bideaux, BSRT, RT (R), CIIP, Clinical Applications Manager, RamSoft

Secure Direct Messaging capabilities have become must-have components for many if not most users of RIS and PACS. While Meaningful Use’s requirements around the technology have spurred much of the adoption, Direct Messaging has grown in popularity by its own merits.

In a conversation with imagingBiz last winter, Vijay Ramanathan, president and CEO of RamSoft, the Toronto-based supplier of healthcare IT software and services, described the development. “The vision of every imaging facility is to create a report and have it automatically land within the referring physician’s EMR,” he said. Cutting out the middle steps—faxes, manual EMR entries and so on—“is really the main intent of Meaningful Use,” he said, adding that such efficiency is “where healthcare needs to go.”

This summer, we interviewed Luke Bideaux, RamSoft clinical applications manager, for updates and insights in light of the company’s recent release of PowerServer 6.0 and its ongoing work with Direct Messaging. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Q: Could you begin with a quick recap of the basics of Direct Messaging technology?

Bideaux: Sure. With Direct Messaging, physicians can discuss and exchange patient information with one another in a secure manner. For example, if a referring physician has questions on a study a patient had, they can easily send a message from their EHR/EMR to the radiologist directly into the radiologist’s RIS/PACS. The referring provider also can send additional patient information with Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) and vice versa with just a click of a button. All of the data is encrypted.

Q: How have communications needs changed for radiologists and what are the factors driving that change?

Bideaux: A new generation of tech-savvy healthcare professionals is driving the need for more efficient communication tools. Now, more than ever, radiologists must be connected. Referring physicians demand more from their radiologists these days, besides just the radiology report. Dodging penalties and acquiring incentive payments have increased adoption of CEHRT from the referring physicians over the past few years.

Numerous Meaningful Use objectives, such as those related to computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and image access, are driving a more connected healthcare environment, and now, in Stage 2, radiology is involved more than ever. This requires radiologists to get on board with the necessary technology or risk getting thrown to the wayside by their referring community.

Q: Dodging, getting thrown—that’s vivid language. Have you encountered resistance?

Bideaux: Well, there is a hardship exemption for radiologists to avoid doing Meaningful Use. So one option is to simply do nothing and attempt to do business as usual rather than invest in an upgrade or a new EHR. So, we do see a lot of, “Why should I pour money into something extra when things are fine the way they are?”

When you look at what’s incentivizing radiologists to adopt Direct Messaging, pleasing their referring community is the main driving force.  Radiologists and referring physicians who are already doing Meaningful Use should have Direct Messaging already built into their EHRs, and those who are not participating in Meaningful Use are adding Direct Messaging onto their existing systems as an add-on.  When referring physicians come to their radiology providers and begin demanding Direct Messaging, there’s typically not much resistance on behalf of those radiologists to get on board. 

Referring physicians are demanding Direct Messaging for both the inherent workflow efficiencies as well as meeting their own Meaningful Use requirements.  CPOE and Image Access are two objectives that referring physicians need the help of their radiology providers to achieve. Radiology providers who are able to receive radiology orders via CPOE and provide access to images via the referring physician’s EHR will help those referring physicians not only meet those requirements; they also will be the ones continuing to get referrals rather than the non-adopters who will be on the outside looking in.

Q: What are some of the communications problems among radiologists that RamSoft’s 2014 CEHRT, PowerServer 6.0, addresses?

Bideaux: It has addressed the issue of not having enough clinical data to provide the most accurate diagnosis possible for the patient. It helps eliminate delays in patient treatments by having everything needed at the provider’s fingertips.