Is your organization getting the most value out of Enterprise Imaging?

We all understand the basics of a successful project. Make clear goals, put a team in place to execute on them, measure success. Then lather, rinse, and repeat, right? Somehow, though, many health systems are not finding this formula to be effective for their Enterprise Imaging (EI) initiatives.

Three factors may be contributing.

1. Not having the right mix clinical/business/technical voices on the project

 EI initiatives give organizations real opportunities to improve patient care quality and to reduce costs (of both patient care and technology). To take full advantage, it is essential that the project team views the EI project foremost as a clinical and business quality improvement project, supported by technology, rather than a technology project. Often, project teams don’t have the right range of resources engaged (or in some cases available) to approach the project from this strategic perspective.   Effective EI projects include:

  • Executive level governance to articulate the organization’s strategic goals, to set project direction.
  • Clinical participation from service lines that generate, consume, and exchange images.
  • Business and operational staff that can describe the health system’s objectives.
  • Technical staff that can act as translators and configure the software to address the requirements these groups describe.

Let’s take one example.  How does your organization think of one important element of an EI project – the large archive(s) of medical images. Is it a costly burden to be managed, or a clinical asset to be mined for AI insights? Or is it a business asset to be monetized working with an AI partner? In all likelihood it is all of these things. Without the right mix of staff and levels of authority at the table, the right questions may not be being asked, and important opportunities might be missed.

2.  Not knowing your unknowns

Imaging has sprung up in departments throughout health systems, frequently unbeknownst to IT and imaging leadership (think mobile phones in the ED, wound clinic, or elsewhere). Additionally – lack of access to imaging tools and workflow may be causing expensive, manual, and error-prone workflow in other areas (are any of your areas scanning images because they aren’t connected to a PACS? Have any created shadow archives to support a specific unmet need?).

Successful EI projects start with a period of discovery to unearth instances of unmanaged imaging, and an assessment of the associated needs, costs and risks of them. This discovery team needs to be able to have conversations with leadership and administrative staff of service lines throughout the organization. This team must have the business savvy to identify when a technical challenge, or complicated workflow translates to higher patient costs, lost referrals, or missed revenue opportunity. It is only with this knowledge that the most impactful priorities can be defined and addressed.

3. Having hard to measure goals

In the absence of the right governance and project team mix, and without a clear understanding of the real state of imaging at an enterprise, organizations may develop vague goals for enterprise imaging, along the lines of “reduce the number of imaging systems in use” or “improve productivity”.   Certainly, organizations can make incremental improvements with goals like this. But, with the right diligence work up front, organizations can articulate specific, unique goals that best support its clinical and business needs. Your goals will, of course vary, but here are a few detail-rich examples:

  • Replace 7 existing imaging storage or viewing vendors currently in use with components from an EI platform.
  • Eliminate 100% of patient photographs on provider mobile phones by delivering to each of them a HIPAA compliant tool to capture and label clinical photographs and to make them available in the EHR.
  • Increase pediatric cardiac referrals by 3% by streamlining the referral and image transfer process and expanding marketing outreach efforts.

Clear, quantifiable goals allow project teams to measure progress along the way, and know when to celebrate deserved victories.

Your organization is likely doing a lot of this right – but making a few tweaks, like those discussed above, can help your organization get more value, in terms of reduced imaging utilization and IT costs, and increased provider efficiency, from your EI initiative.

If you’d like to discuss this more, you can reach me at