As healthcare organizations implement or switch electronic health records systems, radiologists need to become involved in the transition.

Making a switch will become increasingly important as EHRs become more inclusive of different types of clinical information systems and images are incorporated into patients’ records.

Decisions about EHR implementations typically are made at high levels of the organization, such as at the CEO, CIO or CMIO level, says Roslyn Grizzard, an ultrasound group leader at Houston Methodist, an integrated delivery system operating eight hospitals with facility operating 2,264 beds in the Houston area.

The facility recently transitioned to Epic hospital information system, and Grizzard was involved with the team leading the implementation, she told attendees at an educational session at the annual meeting of the Association for Medical Imaging Management in Orlando, Fla.

Radiologists may have been reluctant participants in EHR implementations in the past, but as records systems become more all-encompassing as repositories of patient information, radiology departments need to provide input on how they’ll interact with traditional imaging systems—such as picture archiving and communication systems and radiology information systems, Grizzard says.

Workflow in new EHR systems becomes important for radiology departments, she adds. For example, how messages are routed in newly implemented systems can dictate how patients are checked in for service, how they are routed in an organization, and how billing is handled. “Those workflows can be invisible in an electronic environment,” Grizzard says. “When they were written on paper, you knew where they go.”

Similarly, radiologists need to be involved in discussions about interfaces between the EHR and radiology systems. Obtaining interfaces, or trying to program them, can be expensive. “You may have dreams of linking up a lot of things, but if the interface team lacks resources and money, you may not be able to do all that you want to do.”

A number of decisions involving the EHR will need to be determined to make a successful implementation, Grizzard says. These include:

  • Modalities that will be used, and in which rooms they will be used.
  • Patient access and workflows, including administrative tasks involved such as insurance verification and preauthorization. “We’re not going to get paid if we don’t integrate those two steps into the program,” she adds.
  • Scheduling, and whether protocols or instructions for radiology need to be incorporated into the EHR implementation.
  • Staffing requirements, which can affect licensing requirements for the new EHR.

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