PACS-RIS: The benefits of trading in the “old car” for a new one

Earlier this year, St. Joseph’s Imaging Associates in Syracuse, NY, was faced with the same choice as many other imaging centers: either replace most of the parts on our current RIS and PACS systems, or trade in the entire system on a brand new RIS/PACS.

 It wasn’t a choice we approached lightly.

 Like many of our peers in medical imaging, St. Joseph’s is under pressure to meet new regulatory measures, such as Meaningful Use — or else face painful financial penalties to the bottom line. In addition, we are in the midst of adding two imaging centers to our 7 existing Syracuse-area imaging clinics. By this time in 2014, we expect to add 50,000 imaging exams per year to our current system-wide volume of 170,000 exams per year.

 Indeed, finding a solid, affordable solution that would not only help St. Joseph’s address the demands of Meaningful Use, but also position our system for growth in an increasingly competitive regional market, was critical.

 Our RIS and PACS, which were installed in the 1990s and early 2000s, respectively, had served us well. In fact, we initially tried to figure out a way to upgrade specific aspects of each system, or replace only the PACS. But those options cost nearly as much as buying an entirely new PACS/RIS — and wouldn’t have met Meaningful Use requirements or provided sufficient “horsepower” to allow St. Joseph’s to grow in today’s healthcare environment.

 Ultimately, we decided to trade in the old system for a new, integrated PACS/RIS that provides comprehensive and integrated document management, referring physician engagement, and medical imaging sharing solutions. After rollout of the solution to all of our locations is complete, St. Joseph’s will be able to manage daily operations with an integrated system that reduces duplicate data entry and errors, as well as complies with Meaningful Use.

 In addition, we plan to take advantage of a referral portal and access solution to give referring physicians the ability to place orders with us, access reports, and even retrieve patient images online. Since the system operates in a completely virtual environment, it also gives us full redundancy, enabling us to back up all our data and imaging for full business continuance.

 Readers may have picked up on my intentional use of car terminology. In some ways, deciding whether to upgrade parts of RIS/PACS systems or replace them entirely is much like fixing up an old luxury car vs. buying a new one. You certainly can replace many of the parts on the old car and make it run like new. But ultimately, it’s still not going to give you the same features, or the higher levels of efficiency and functionality you get from the new car.

 It goes without saying that high-performing technology is critical to the future viability of imaging centers. For St. Joseph’s, it was time to switch.

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