The move by St. Louis-based Mercy to implement an enterprise imaging platform aims to improve the efficiency of its radiologists, while enabling the four-state health system to handle the expanding use of imaging technologies.

Those needs are massive—over the past 10 years, the organization has amassed 25 million imaging exams, encompassing 800 terabytes of storage.

Over the next year, Mercy plans to transition its images from a vendor neutral archive to the Visage 7 Open Archive. When the transition is completed, it’s expected to be one of the largest medical imaging archives in North America.

Mercy expects to gain numerous benefits from the transition, says Larry Aubry, vice president of business partnerships within Mercy Technology Services, the IT consulting and services arm of the delivery system. Radiologists, for example, will be able to more quickly access all of a patient’s past imaging exams from the platform.

Speed of access to imaging studies was being hampered by the Mercy’s previous approach, which involved using nine separate legacy picture archiving and communications systems (PACS)—it will assimilate a tenth different PACS when it completes the acquisition of another hospital in the next few months.

“The new strategy prompted Mercy to move to a deconstructed PACS strategy, with the installation of Visage’s viewing solution and a workflow solution from Medicalis completing in March 2017,” Aubry says. “As a result, radiologists have gained between 30 and 50 percent efficiency.” Now, Mercy will migrate to the Visage open archive, which is a core component to the enterprise imaging platform.

The new platform also will enable Mercy to scale in anticipation of future growth, both of the delivery system and as Mercy Technical Services offers technical services to healthcare organizations that contract with it.

The new platform will enable the organization to take in and distribute images from other specialties, such as cardiology, ophthalmology and more, says Toni Dudley, executive director of clinical systems for Mercy Technology Services.

Images from different modalities, such as point-of-care ultrasound and cardiology, don’t conform to other imaging standards, but healthcare organizations are increasingly interested in being able to store these “-ology” images so they can be centrally stored and widely accessed through electronic health records systems.

Once the transition is complete, expected by the third quarter of 2019, the Visage platform will enable radiologists to instantly view images from a single platform on a number of different viewing devices, including mobile platforms, says Bobby Roe, director of solutions architecture and customer experience for Visage.

The company is also working on expanding the ability of the platform to incorporate artificial intelligence to support radiologists. Its platform can use algorithms from third-party sources, but the company is also working on its own, which will be able to be deployed to run in the background on images.

The algorithms will help support care by looking for incidental findings that radiologists don’t have the time to pursue, Roe says. “At some point, there may be tens of thousands of AI algorithms that may be run against each image,” he says. “The findings will need to be managed and displayed in a meaningful way for radiologists.”

The Visage platform will run on Mercy’s data centers. Visage also provides backup and redundancy capabilities, providing additional protection in case of disaster or data loss, Aubry says.

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