The radiology information system, or RIS, has long been the work horse of the imaging group practice, handling such functions as scheduling, demographics collection, even billing and results reporting. Now, under the meaningful use program, the RIS is taking on a new level of importance: Some radiology groups are using their RIS as the backbone of their participation in the incentive program.

Keith Dreyer, D.O., vice chair of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, told attendees at the RSNA 2011 conference in Chicago that the day is soon approaching when RIS vendors will undergo complete certification of their systems, meaning they are capable of upholding all data capture and reporting requirements called for in the MU program. Dreyer said about one-third of RIS vendors had attained complete certification, with another third having attained modular certification. "If your RIS vendor has attained modular certification, you need to ask what their next step will be," he advised attendees.

The meaningful use scenario for private practice radiologists can quickly become complicated, Dreyer noted. Radiologists might read images for multiple hospitals, each with a different system. If the reporting system is the common glue, then it would need to be certified. And even if radiologists gain exclusion from some MU reporting criteria, their practice would still need to have certified system in place capable of performing those functions.

Participating in the MU program need not be an overwhelming task, other speakers said. Steve Fischer, CIO at the Minneapolis-based Center for Diagnostic Imaging, said much of the data capture needed falls naturally on the shoulders of front-desk staff. The center provides management services for a dozen radiology groups, and is participating in the MU program as much to avoid future penalties as to gain incentives, Fischer said. Adding e-prescribing capabilities and a reporting dashboard were among the top I.T. challenges.

 

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