A happy marriage: Integrated RIS-PACS

By Lenny Reznik, Director Enterprise Imaging and Info Systems, Agfa HealthCare

As Meaningful Use requirements solidify and deadlines loom, radiology IT is rapidly evolving to keep pace.  Radiologists and radiology IT leaders are working together to identify the best technology strategies to meet Meaningful Use requirements for electronic medical records (EMR) without sacrificing system functionality or the efficient workflows that have best served the patient, end user, and department. At the same time, EMRs have been evolving, and many now incorporate several functions of the radiology information system (RIS), such as order entry, patient registration, and report repository to the enterprise electronic medical record.

But don’t be too quick to say goodbye to the traditional RIS. While there may be cost benefits of an integrated RIS/EMR solution, and one could argue that data housed on a common enterprise-wide platform leads to a common workflow across the organization, the traditional RIS/PACS integration is still the recommended route and preferred by many institutions due to its inherent ability to properly fulfill the uniqueness of radiology operations. This includes the facts that:

- The technologist, nurses, and other staff serve as the primary patient interface.

- The radiologist provides a consultative service and does not examine the patient in the traditional sense, often reading exams in batches instead of during the patient appointment.

- A department may use multiple modalities, each with its own complex protocol.

- Digital imaging data must be processed, managed, and archived.

- Workflow includes communication to and from the referring physician on both ends of the procedure.

Radiology is a specialty and should be served by a specialty system. Integrated RIS/EMR cannot deliver radiologists the flexibility and functionality they need. The best infrastructure for radiology resource management and care of radiology patients is and will continue to be an integrated RIS/PACS, with an interface to the external EMR. Don’t just take my word for it. KLAS is actually launching a study to address this exact situation. We will all be tuned in to see if radiology administrators today agree that the fate of RIS will still be as the primary manager of the radiology department. 

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