· Banking on PACS Bundles
· Tech Zoom: Data Management Made Easy

Banking on PACS Bundles

What do providers at small practices call a solution that requires less upfront capital plus ongoing savings? One beautiful bundle. At the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM), held in May in Seattle, BRIT Systems Inc, Dallas, introduced its new PACS bundles designed for offices and clinics. The bundles offer off-site storage bundled with the BRIT Systems PACS, allowing groups to lessen their initial investment and cost of ongoing IT support.

“Efficiency gains are so important today for nonhospital facilities,” said Michele Fisher, president of BRIT systems, and Yassin Sallam, business development, in an e-mail. “By reevaluating workflow and drilling down to increase efficiencies, these sites can help offset the DRA by accommodating as many patient studies as possible per day.”

Fisher and Sallam also note that the digital environment provided by PACS bundling can help administrators monitor workflow and efficiency. “We provide the tools they need to identify bottlenecks or evaluate the status and speed of reading and transcription services,” they noted. “PACS bundles provide a better mechanism to facilitate a smoother, more efficient throughput so the facility can maximize staff time and keep referring physicians happy with access to their patient data.”

The basic bundle package includes BRIT’s proprietary Exam Loop tool for monitoring and managing the exam process. “The initial development was to provide system managers with a bird’s-eye view of the operation, so from one screen they can visualize the progress of all studies in their department,” Sallam and Fisher said. “They can put timers on each step and see when studies fall behind. With one click, managers can dig deeper into data and reports to see what issues are present. The configurability of Exam Loop allows it to be molded to a site’s workflow, and this is what makes it so powerful.”

Off-site storage includes two copies of data online at all times on spinning discs for the duration of the contract; the PACS bundles can then connect to and share data with other systems. “With all the data online, the site also has business continuance—it will be much faster for them to restart or continue operations,” Fisher and Sallam said. “When used with SmartSynch [a more advanced disaster recovery/business continuity solution], all local functions can be provided with the remote system.”

Optional upgrades include a scheduling component, an HL7 interface to a physician practice-management system, integrated billing, and real-time redundancy. “With synchronization redundancy, they can point remote users to pull studies from the hosted server at our data center, which is robust for high-bandwidth requirements,” Sallam and Fisher said.

Perhaps the best news of all for small practices, however, is that the system is upgradeable and scalable, allowing businesses the option of ramping up to a more powerful PACS when ready. “The PACS bundles are a ‘full-blown’ PACS, with all the functionality that you would expect,” Fisher and Sallam noted. “These groups can grow their practices and grow this into an enterprise PACS that can be used across multiple sites. This sets them up nicely for remote reading services, or an environment where the site can share information with radiologists for specialty reads.”

Pricing includes an upfront cost and an ongoing subscription based on study volume and type of study; system management and diagnostic licenses are determined based on the number of studies.

—Cat Vasko

Tech Zoom: Data Management Made Easy

All too often, data management is a burdensome task. Not anymore, thanks to Nuance Communications Inc of Burlington, Mass. The company recently launched RadCube, a Web-based business intelligence tool. RadCube’s features include advanced clinical data mining, analysis, and classification; the solution is automated, collecting and structuring data from computerized physician order entry, radiology decision support, speech reporting, and critical test result management applications.

“We make it very simple to organize and distribute data to the people who need to see it,” said Mark Mardini, vice president of medical imaging at Nuance. “We’ve got all this data coming from different sources, and the application allows you to visualize the data and generate reports.”

RadCube is powered by LEXIMER, Nuance’s patented natural language-processing engine. LEXIMER uses data mining algorithms to extract, structure, and classify the text of radiology reports. “This application really allows you to look at all of the data when you’re making reports,” Mardini said. “The hardest part is understanding what data you have.”

David S. Mendelson, MD, medical director of radiology informatics and chief of clinical informatics at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, helped beta-test the solution. “We’ve had our hands on it for about 6 months,” he said. “We’ve been mining data for years, and we have, on a consulting basis, an individual who takes our RIS data and designs all kinds of reports for us. He’s worth every dollar we pay, but it’s a question of the ease of constructing a query.”

Mendelson cites the user-friendliness of the RadCube solution as a major benefit. “You open up the Cube, you drag and drop the information you want to see, and it instantaneously generates a graphical analysis,” he said. “It’s very quick, very visual, and it seems to be able to mimic most of the reports we’d been doing the old-fashioned way.”

The benefits to efficient, effective data mining are clear: it can simplify utilization management, monitor radiologist and technologist workflow, aid in quality assurance, and enable trending and forecasting. “Once the light bulb switches on in the customer’s mind, they have to have it,” Mardini said.

For a department like Mendelson’s, which has been experiencing the benefits of this kind of data manipulation for years, accurate reports are indispensable. “RadCube mimics the things we’ve been querying for years,” he said. “And all these factors are paramount. You have to identify the strengths and the weak spots of your operation.”

Mendelson has a few words of advice for early adopters of business intelligence solutions like RadCube. “If you’re going to use these tools, you need to become a little bit of an expert so you can understand exactly what you’re querying,” he said. “And it’s not bad if you can validate your results with a second tool.”

Mendelson was interested in the tool in part because of the LEXIMER algorithm, but sees natural language processing as a relatively young technology. “It’s very promising and exciting, but it’s still a little bit raw,” he noted. “They have the LEXIMER analysis of the free text data incorporated into the Cube and you can begin to explore it, but the definitions are not quite as robust as the traditional components. That’s something I think we’re going to see evolve.”

In the meantime, however, the solution provides a rapid, user-friendly, visual means of interpreting data—an increasingly valuable asset. “Now more than ever, we’re in the age of analytics,” Mendelson said. “People will move toward these tools as they begin to trust them.”

—C. Vasko