Interoperability, planning key to 'filmless' medical imaging transition

Officials at hospitals and healthcare organizations planning to eliminate the use of films in medical imaging tests should get their ducks in a row before proceeding, as the transition hardly is an easy one. That's the takeaway from a study published this month in the American Journal of Roentgenology that outlines some of the steps involved in the process, CMIO reports.

For instance, those leading the transition must be sure that all parties impacted by such a change--including consumers--are on board. "During that time, the early adopters, informal leaders and other influential groups should be engaged to mitigate their
colleagues' fears," the study's authors write. "Some of the assessment work can help outline how users want to be trained; what, when, and how they want information updates; and how they want to be involved in the conversion activities." 

Failure to heed input from all stakeholders "almost certainly guarantees a difficult transition," the authors add.

What's more, technology issues such as the storage of records and interoperability must be addressed early on to curb work-arounds. Faulty interoperability, according to the authors, can hinder the speed of workflow. For instance, while DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) is the standard language used for communication by medical imagers, readers also should be familiar with health level 7 (HL7) and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE).

According to a whitepaper from 2010 published by Herndon, Va.-based imaging technology manufacturing company Vidar, the transition to a totally filmless industry as predicted by various experts remains up in the air; some believe the U.S. is only 10 years from eliminating film in medical imaging processes, while others have predicted a full switch will take three times as long.

But as processes like teleradiology and image sharing via the cloud continue to become more popular, and as mobile devices enabling imaging viewing and sharing continuing to mature, such planning may become necessary sooner rather than later.

To learn more:
- read the CMIO article
- here's the American Journal of Roentgenology study abstract

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