Tech exec: no true interoperability without imaging

Healthcare provider organizations working out interoperability strategies must include medical imaging in their tactical initiatives.

And the key to successfully incorporating imaging as a critical interoperability component is tending to three key parts: connecting with community physicians, optimizing EHR capabilities and managing internal imaging.

That’s according to a technology-vendor executive writing in the HIMSS-affiliated outlet Healthcare IT News.

“The ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap continues to drive providers to make real interoperability a central priority that touches every aspect of healthcare,” writes Steve Tolle of Chicago-based Merge Healthcare. “And in the medical imaging market, interoperability is particularly important.”

He points to estimates that show medical imaging driving upwards of $300 billion in healthcare spending each year.

Tolle then lays out his three tactical priorities for incorporating imaging into interoperability measures:

  • A health system’s ability to connect a community of physicians, not least radiologists, enables better referral management, states Tolle. “Managing referrals and eliminating referral loss have major revenue implications for hospitals today,” he writes. “Interoperability, with respect to a stronger imaging infrastructure, can improve referral operations and strengthen physician loyalty in the long run.”
  • Optimizing the EHR system via a “single pane of glass”—aka a universal viewer—allows physicians to work within a single workflow tool without having to navigate multiple windows and software systems, Tolle points out.
  • As for managing internal imaging, Tolle holds that leaders of healthcare systems ought to think about how any one doctor in their system looks at an image, regardless of format (DICOM, PDF or JPEG). “Images must be stored in one place, tightly linked to the EHR,” Tolle writes.

“As we move toward an environment of value-based purchasing and outcome-driven care,” Tolle concludes, “the time is now for organizations to see the significance of imaging as a part of their interoperability strategies.”

HIMSS has broadly defined interoperability as intra-organizational connectivity. The concept is often used interchangeably with integration, but the latter term more accurately refers to inter-organizational connectivity.