Now that everyone is back from the holidays, I thought I would take a stab at some predictions for imaging informatics in 2016. Following RSNA 2015 (Radiological Society of North America), it seems as if the imaging market is finally waking up to some of the changes taking place in healthcare. Here are some thought-provokers as we head into 2016:
VNA vs. Enterprise Archive
As much as I would like to think 2016 will be the transition, I am inclined to think that the majority of Vendor Neutral Archives (VNA) will continue to be departmental replacement of existing Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) archives. Eventually, there will be enough enterprise imaging initiatives to overtake simple departmental archive replacements, but I don’t think 2016 will be the year that happens.
As a strong proponent of Enterprise Image Management, I would like to think that 2016 will be a breakout year for universal viewers. The notion that once one installs a VNA, or Enterprise Archive, it is possible to access images directly from the archive will mean more attention to universal viewers as an alternative to PACS-related clinical viewers, as they will augment the PACS for widespread imaging viewing. The greater proliferation of EMR integration and physician and patient portals will be the drivers for universal viewers. However, I don’t think 2016 is necessarily the breakout year for them either.
Based on the past two years, I do see 2016 as being an important year for advanced visualization. With more PACS vendors integrating advanced visualization into their diagnostic workstations, I think the days of dedicated advanced visualization workstations are numbered. Anyone considering a PACS addition or replacement in 2016 should be looking at the degree of advanced visualization integration as a requirement. With sufficient applications available at a PACS diagnostic workstation, it might be redundant to invest in a separate advanced visualization system.
Smart Worklists & Image Sharing
It seems to me that 2016 could be a banner year for smart worklists. The demand for collaboration across entities as well as growing accountable care initiatives might be considered key drivers. Users will need the ability to see procedures from more than one location to enable more productive diagnostic reading. Similarly, the advent of smart worklists that are capable of gleaning additional diagnostic information from an EMR will grow in importance, and make for more productive diagnoses.
With growing collaboration across healthcare entities, the need for image sharing will likely increase. There are sufficient vendors addressing the need now, and I expect that 2016 will be a strong year for imaging sharing applications. Such applications will make it easier for physicians and patients to access their images. As much as I would like to see such capabilities (especially for patients), I don’t think 2016 will be the year for widespread patient access. If ARRA/MU Stage 3 is to ever become a reality, this will be essential, but not likely widespread in 2016.
IBM’s acquisition of Merge Healthcare and discussion of Watson was one of the highlights of last year’s RSNA. For as much attention as it received, I doubt that 2016 will be a breakout year for Watson. There are considerable hurdles that Watson will need to pass before it becomes mainstream.
Unquestionably the term is catching on, and I would expect many PACS replacement opportunities in 2016 to be asking the vendors that question. I know there is the counter-argument that a deconstructed PACS means the onus is on the customer to do systems integration, but aside from that, economic and technical realities may dictate greater attention to deconstructed PACS. As imaging informatics permeates deeper and deeper into information technology (IT) departments, the likelihood is that PACS will become more modularized.
Imaging Informatics Meetings
I was surprised that attendance was down at the 2015 RSNA (http://www.dotmed.com/news/story/28441). I had several vendors suggest that HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) may be the more attractive venue for imaging informatics. It will be interesting to see if this holds true at the upcoming HIMSS 2016 meeting. Meetings such as the SIIM (Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine - https://siim.org/) will need to be watched to see if there is any increase or decrease in attendance in 2016, and whether HIMSS is a factor.
These are just a few of the areas that might receive greater attention in 2016. It will be an exciting year for imaging informatics, and I look forward to being a participant!