Radiology information systems (referred to as “RIS” by most users and vendors) have been around since the 1980s and have been tailored to meet the needs of both small and large organizations. The RIS market has become flooded with vendors since then, resulting in a fragmented market that most buyers find confusing to navigate. We’ve written this guide to give buyers a lay of the land to start their research and comparisons.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Radiology information systems help radiology centers manage clinical and administrative data and automate workflows. At the user level, a RIS helps collect patient demographics and contact information, schedule appointments, track images, manage inventory and report on results. A RIS provides automation of repetitive tasks for administrative staff and increases efficiency for providers.
Most radiology information systems will offer an HL7 interface to enable integration with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), electronic medical records systems (EMRs) or hospital information systems (HIS). More advanced systems will offer functionality for dictation support, result delivery via efax and email, mobile support and customizable reporting.
Buyers of radiology software programs will have the choice of implementing a standalone RIS or an integrated RIS and PACS. Due to the complementary offerings of both, it is fairly common for RIS buyers to implement integrated RIS and PACS suites. The decision to implement a standalone RIS or a complete RIS/PACS is dependent on users’ unique needs and environments.
It is important that buyers assess what type of buyer they are before evaluating vendors. Just about all buyers can fall into one of the following three categories:
Small radiology centers. These buyers typically work in radiology centers with fewer than 10 providers. They have the most straightforward needs of the three buyer categories.
Enterprise radiology centers. These buyers work in radiology centers that have at least 10 physicians on staff, although they may be much larger. These buyers will typically require a robust RIS capable of integrating with PACS and HIS.
Hospitals. These buyers work in radiology departments within hospitals and typically manage a large amount of radiological information and images originating from several locations or users. They are aiming to integrate with HIS and eliminate a lot of the inefficiency associated with managing information on paper.
When implementing a RIS, buyers should primarily expect to realize the following benefits:
Efficiency. By eliminating paper folders, hardcopy images and manual methods of tracking data, radiology centers should expect to increase efficiency when transitioning from a fully manual office to one powered by a RIS.
Uniformity. RIS are able to enforce best practices for radiology center workflow, including reviewing images, storing information and sharing data with other organizations. A formal system ensures that all necessary steps will be taken without key tasks being forgotten.
Automated reporting. Buyers should find that it is much easier to run reports on various criteria, enabling them to determine trends in outcomes and make data-driven decisions.
As with all technology, there are potential risks to consider as well. The first issue on most RIS buyers’ minds is patient privacy, which most companies have addressed with fully HIPAA-compliant systems. The second concern we hear about most often is in regards to ease of use. While most ease of use issues can be addressed with training, buyers will want to perform a thorough evaluation of their selected RIS to make sure the workflow is logical and the layout is intuitive.
There are two important healthcare software trends that are important to understand when evaluating the RIS market:
Software as a Service (SaaS). The SaaS delivery model has disrupted a number of software markets, including RIS. Many buyers prefer systems that “sit in the cloud” and require low upfront costs, little IT infrastructure and greater accessibility. Many vendors now offer SaaS solutions and buyers should be ready to evaluate this model with an open mind.
Integration and interoperability. Buyers should be aware of the widespread push towards integration among disjointed healthcare networks. As providers and government legislators recognize the costs and inefficiencies in the healthcare system due to paper, large and small RIS buyers need to consider whether their vendor supports open standards and integration with EMRs, hospital information systems and health information exchanges.
While the radiology information systems market is complex and fragmented, buyers can quickly understand where to look by segmenting the industry along the lines of the three buyer categories mentioned above.
|This type of buyer...||Should evaluate these systems|
|Small radiology centers||RISynergy, Medics RIS/PACS, Sage Intergy|
|Enterprise radiology centers||GE, Medics RIS/PACS|
|Hospitals||GE, Siemens, Philips|
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