Governance, Mission, Growth

Operations “Control Tower” Allows for Real-Time Monitoring
Low-Volume Site Goes Filmless

Operations “Control Tower” Allows for Real-Time Monitoring

In its earliest days, Outpatient Imaging Affiliates (OIA), Nashville, Tenn, was faced with a challenge.

It was operating three different imaging centers on three disparate platforms without an ability to consolidate the necessary information for proactive management. Each center had its own approach to scheduling and billing. A centralized technology strategy for selecting solutions did not exist. Company executives knew they needed to standardize their operations.

That’s when they turned to Merge Healthcare and its RIS Logic system for help.

“The RIS was focused on an outpatient environment,” said Jeff Tumbleson, vice president, information technology. “They weren’t trying to retrofit hospital-based RIS thoughts and processes into an outpatient imaging center. Their agile product allowed us to link multiple sites from a single location. It was the best solution for us, especially from a scheduling standpoint, which just wasn’t available in an inpatient application.”

Jeff Tumbleson, vice president, information technology

The company now owns or operates more than 15 centers, ranging from single to multimodality facilities that offer the full range of imaging services. Each center chooses and uses its own PACS solution. “The PACS is to a radiologist as a scalpel is to a surgeon,” Tumbleson said. “Since we partner with many different radiologists, it was important that we allow them to use the tools they were comfortable with. If they aren’t currently using a PACS, or weren’t happy with the one they were using, we are comfortable suggesting the Merge solutions.”

For example, when one of OIA’s centers began shopping for a PACS, it compared various rates available in the market. Ultimately, it selected Merge’s integrated RIS/PACS solution for its seamless workflow and range of visualization tools. Tumbleson said radiologists who have selected Merge’s system have also commented that it allows for more productive reading.

“They like the fact that all of the information that they need to provide a quality read is available within a single application,” Tumbleson said, adding that many of OIA’s radiologists read on as many as four different systems for the hospitals they cover. “They don’t have to shuffle papers or go to other applications to gather the necessary information.”

OIA joint ventures outpatient imaging centers with local health care providers, such as the University of Virginia Health System, Thomas Jefferson University, the University of Maryland, the University of Texas, Adventist Health, and Deaconess Associations, among others.

The company explains that a joint venture provides organizations with a previously existing expertise, rather than have a business administer, or maybe even develop, one on its own. “In today’s industry environment, there are no opportunities for second chances and a joint venture with an experienced third party encourages a ‘get it right the first time’ mentality, while still allowing the originating party the flexibility to focus on its own competencies and priorities,” states the company’s Web site.

Low-Volume Site Goes Filmless

Orthopedic Associates of the Greater Lehigh Valley (OAGLV), a practice with five orthopedic specialists and multiple offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had been using film for diagnostics and treatment planning while renting out an off-site facility to store the hard images. Films needed to be transported via courier service in advance to the office where the patient would be seen.

After positive experiences working with PACS at hospitals where they perform surgery, the group’s physicians decided to convert their own practice to an entirely electronic environment. For its ease of use and customer support, they chose the INFINITT Smart-NET PACS from INFINITT North America (INA), Phillipsburg, NJ.

One of the challenges the practice faced was the cost involved with implementing a CR and PACS. It can be quite a large investment for a practice with low imaging volumes. INFINITT’s scalable solution addressed this concern. It hosts and maintains the system and allows OAGLV to pay for PACS functionality on a monthly basis.

David Smarro, president and CEO

“Unlike other ASP PACS offerings, INFINITT Smart-NET is a true pay-per-procedure program that does not impose a minimum-volume charge on users,” said David Smarro, president and CEO of INA. “Most ASP PACS contracts have a base monthly charge that ensures the vendor’s return on investment.”

Containing integrated speech-recognition, document-scanning, and CD-burning tools, the Web-based solution enables access to images from any Internet-connected PC. The offering also includes an unlimited user license, allowing images to be distributed to referring physicians without paying an additional cost to the specialist or surgeon.

The system also can come equipped with an interface to a RIS, HIS, EMR, or practice-management system; embedded capabilities such as dictation, transcription, and CD burning; and an optional caching server for local storage. OAGLV is able to view and store images from the hospital PACS, digitized priors, and images that patients bring in on CD.

Within a 2-week period, OAGLV eliminated its film, chemical, and processor costs, and it terminated its courier service. Discussing its simple implementation process, Smarro said, “We provide an INFINITT Smart-NET Relay Station that enables modality connectivity and transmission of images over the Internet.

The Smart-NET Relay provides data encryption and fast image compression that allows images to be uploaded quickly.”

As a result, OAGLV has been able to increase its productivity, leaving the physicians to focus on logistical problems and enhancing the quality of service to referring physicians and patients. “INA maintains three copies of each image and takes care of all the storage, redundancy, and security issues. System monitoring and management are done on our end, freeing the physician’s staff to focus on the core business of patient care,” Smarro said.