PACS Integration Fosters Use of Decision Support Tools

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The ability to access online decision support solutions from within a PACS environment increases radiologists’ use of these tools, reveals a study in the July issue of the J ournal of the American College of Radiology. However, integrated access must be provided upon system deployment rather than down the road.

In a study involving 48 radiology residents, researchers led by Matthew Morgan, MD, of the University of Utah School of Medicine, found that those with integrated access leveraged decision support tools three times as frequently as those with Web-based access alone. When study subjects exchanged access methods, however, the group that initially had integrated access showed a significant decline in usage. Moreover, the group that gained integrated access instead of enjoying it from the outset continued to lag behind in utilization.

"Decision-support tools that are embedded into the clinical workflow have the best chance of improving quality of care, and, in the current climate of radiology outsourcing, may also help preserve radiologists' added value," the authors write.

When PACS-integrated access was reversed at the close of the fifth month of the study, average decision support solution usage had dropped by 52%, from 604 to an average of 289 sessions per month in the remaining five months of the study. Meanwhile, usage among study subjects who received PACS-integrated access after having been without it increased 20% from 229 to an average of 274 sessions per month in the final five months. Additional analysis, Morgan and his colleagues assert, indicates that while the residents who garnered integrated access in the second part of the study initially increased their use of decision support by about 35%, utilization subsequently declined to a level along the pre-integration baseline.