Service and Support Are Critical to PACS Success
James KingLike many radiology practices in the United States, Premier Radiology (Nashville, Tennessee) has seen its share of changes over the past few years. James C. King, MD, radiologist and owner, says, “It’s been a tumultuous time. Six years ago, we had one outpatient center; now, we have nine. We provide teleradiology from Maine to Washington state, and on April 1, 2011, we entered into a joint venture with one of the large hospital chains in Nashville.” The growth spurt and joint venture alike were the result of an analysis of the current economic environment for radiology; as practice leaders projected five years into the future, King says, “We were thinking we really needed some kind of a hospital partner.” The result was a joint-venture arrangement with the local Ascension Health system, which resulted in Premier Radiology’s 32 radiologists reading for five hospitals, in addition to its outpatient imaging centers and teleradiology clients. In the midst of all these changes, four years ago, Premier Radiology transitioned from its legacy PACS to the IntelePACS® solution from Intelerad Medical Systems (headquartered in Montreal, Canada). King explains that the switch was inspired by both the ease of use of IntelePACS and its reliability: “We’ve worked with a lot of PACS platforms, and we wanted one that was intuitive, that supported our distributed workflow, and that would be very reliable,” he says. Service Imperative As King highlights, even the most robust informatics platforms are of little use without the vendor service and support necessary to maintain uptime. “If your system goes down, you have patients and physicians waiting, and you need it to be fixed quickly,” he says. “When it comes to PACS, customer service is crucial.” Anibal Jodorcovsky, Intelerad’s chief customer officer, concurs. “There are two main aspects of the vision of our service department,” he says. “The first is responsiveness: I want to make sure our clients have access to the information they need, and that we are clear as to what we’re doing to address their problems. The second is making sure we follow through on our commitments.” Keeping the lines of communication open is critical to this process, Jodorcovsky says—a goal Intelerad meets through the use of an online ticketing system and through account managers who handle long-term relationships with clients. “We have a very good system to make sure our clients understand what’s going on with every given issue, and if we can’t address it right away, we let them know, and we propose a way to mitigate the problem,” he says. To a practice like Premier Radiology, that means reliability, despite a constantly changing imaging market, King says. For instance, he notes, “Our PACS is interfaced with a RIS and PowerScribe® (Nuance Communications, Burlington, Massachusetts)—in the past couple of years, Intelerad offered a bidirectional interface with voice recognition.” That new interface translates into a more efficient practice: “It really streamlines our workflow,” King says. Making Growth Possible Jodorcovsky notes that one critical feature of Intelerad’s customer service and support program is the accommodation of special requests from clients. “We have a user forum and a development wish list, and our clients use those tools to communicate with us and among themselves,” he says. “From there, we can influence the product roadmap, knowing that it will be beneficial, as it comes directly from clients’ feature requests.” That kind of versatility, King says, has allowed the vendor’s PACS product to grow with his practice, adapting to changing needs. “I send Intelerad requests all the time, letting them know when I don’t think a certain tool is working and suggesting how I think it should be,” he says. “I think it really takes that feedback to heart (without going overboard and making the product too complex). Intelerad has been good about staying focused and is careful only to bring in features that will make the product better.” Jodorcovsky agrees. “It’s not always the case that we need to make a change in the product or software,” he notes. “In many cases, we can explain better how the product can be used, and the clients will be able to do what they need to do.” All that adds up to solutions that not only can survive tumultuous times, but can enhance a radiology practice’s position as it undergoes big changes, King says. For instance, when Premier Radiology entered into its local joint venture, it quickly discovered that the four new hospitals were using a six–year-old PACS that had not been updated for several years. “We can’t stand their PACS,” he says. “It’s clunky, it locks up, and getting images properly displayed is very cumbersome.” In response, Premier Radiology is implementing the InteleOne® solution from Intelerad, which will enable its radiologists to interpret current and prior hospital examinations in IntelePACS—guaranteeing efficient workflow and reliability. “Our customer service from Intelerad has been excellent,” King says. “The company monitor our servers every second of the day, and if something fails, it fixes the problem quickly, with very little downtime. Intelerad is there if we need it.” Cat Vasko is editor of and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.