Although picture archiving and communications systems have been widely adopted by healthcare organizations, they are not taking full advantage of enterprise imaging technology that can get information into physicians' hands at the point of care.

Providers have more work to do to expand enterprise image viewing, which gives clinicians the ability to quickly view patient images without limitations on where they can view them, according to the results of a new HIMSS Analytics survey.

The survey of 144 hospital, health system and ambulatory PACS/radiology leaders, follows a similar study conducted by HIMSS Analytics in late 2014 to gauge trends in provider adoption of enterprise image viewing.

According to results of the most recent survey, less than half of respondents indicated that they currently use an enterprise image viewer to meet their imaging needs.

“Being able to view images inside and outside the radiology department has always been key, and organizations have dedicated PACS viewing workstations to do that,” says HIMSS Analytics Research Director Brendan FitzGerald.

“There wasn’t a lot of change year-over-year in terms of how organizations access images,” he adds. “PACS workstations, both inside and outside the radiology department, continue to dominate with about 80 percent adoption. There was a slight increase in the use of image-enabled EHRs, compared with last year, moving from 57 percent to 61 percent.” Image-enabled EHRs let clinicians view images directly in the EHR.

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Mobile technology can help significantly reduce the amount of time it takes physicians to access patient images. However, the HIMSS Analytics survey found limited use of tablets (17 percent) and smartphones (11 percent) to access images on an enterprise level.

Despite the fact that adoption of mobile devices is relatively low in the current imaging market, FitzGerald contends that these wireless platforms are the top technologies cited by providers that have future plans for enterprise image viewing. Looking ahead, survey respondents indicated that smartphones (28.9 percent) and tablets (35.5 percent) have the most potential as platforms for image viewing across the enterprise.

“We also looked at how organizations store their images,” says FitzGerald, who argues that image storage trends show hints that providers may be ready to shift to newer storage technologies. “We’ve seen a drop in multiple servers across organizations and a slight rise in cloud usage for storage, as well as a slight uptick in image repositories that have dynamic imaging capabilities.”

Although existing PACS implementations appear saturated in terms of adoption levels, HIMSS Analytics concludes that there is the potential for growth for organizations looking to adopt new technology focused on the ability to store, share and provide universal access to images.

As the healthcare industry transitions to value-based payment, FitzGerald believes alternative payment models and accountable care will have a significant impact on enterprise-level access to imaging. “It’s about getting the right image for the right patient at the right time,” he adds. “This requires that level of sharing across the enterprise.”

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