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Integrating Images into EHRs

February 17, 2011
by Jennifer Prestigiacomo
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UMass Memorial Health Care Deploys Imaging Interoperability Solution

To provide a more inclusive patient view for physicians, UMass Memorial Health Care (Worcester, Mass.) recently deployed imaging distribution software iConnect Access, from the Chicago-based Merge Healthcare, to enable diagnostic image viewing directly from the electronic health record (EHR). This project was part of the system’s larger strategic plan, which includes a six-year, $100 million strategic plan, dubbed the Cornerstone Project, to implement common patient clinical and financial systems and to reduce variability in processes and workflows across.

Merge's iConnect Access is a vendor neutral XDS viewer that uses DICOM management software to allow diagnostic quality images to present without any download for referring physicians. “Images are so important to different specialties like orthopedics, dermatology, and pulmonary, having this enhancement available really offers a value added to them,” says William Corbett, M.D., vice president community practices for UMass.

“It’s such a huge win,” says Richard Cramer, associate CIO for operations for UMass Memorial Health Care. “Finally, for the clinician we’re doing something that makes their life easier, not just asking them to do more work and collect more data that someone else cares about.”

Outpatient Before Inpatient Integration
For this image integration project, UMass began with its outpatient facilities, which use the Chicago-based Allscripts EHR. The implementation only took 90 days and began piloting in December with eight physicians before rolling out to the 670 physicians who are currently using it. The integration is now in pilot mode for the inpatient EHR, the Soarian system from Siemens Healthcare (Malvern, Pa.). When asked why Umass targeted outpatient before inpatient, Corbett says the motivation was the bottom line. “When we were looking to invest four or five years ago, our reasons were [that] all the pay-for-performance dollars were ambulatory; and it’s been very fruitful, so I think it was the right decision,” he says.

UMass currently has three different picture archiving and communication systems (PACs). For now UMass has the imaging viewer hooked into only the UMass Memorial Medical Center’s PACS, but plans for the future include connecting it to the system’s other two PACS. The only major challenge Cramer and his IT team faced during implementation was creating a queuing server to pull up the most recent studies to ease the heavy load of new queries the system was faced with.

“Very seldom do we in IS get to do something that is so widely applauded by our customers,” says Cramer.