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:
What Is RIS?
Common Features of RIS Software
What Type of Buyer Are You?
The Vendor Landscape
Evaluating Radiology Information Systems
Benefits and Potential Issues
Market Trends to Understand
The Vendor Landscape
Radiology information software (RIS) is an electronic medical records system designed to serve the unique needs of radiology centers. These systems help manage clinical and administrative data and automate workflows by:
Radiology centers will have the choice of implementing a standalone RIS or an integrated RIS and picture archiving and communication system (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.
The following features are commonly found in most RIS systems:
|HL7 interface||Enables integration with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), electronic medical records systems (EMRs) or hospital information systems (HIS) to ensure seamless data transfer between order entry, results delivery, patient clinical information etc.|
|Dictation support||In-app voice recognition or integrations with third party solutions that allow physicians to use a microphone to speak commands and dictate notes and patient reports.|
|Result delivery via efax and email||Transmission of imaging results back to the electronic system, and physician, that ordered them. Systems with patient portals will also send imaging results to the access portal for patient use.|
|Administrative dashboards and reports||Report on a variety of business operations, including exam requests, administrative workflows and clinician productivity. Track trends and increase profitability through analyzing department metrics such as patient type, modality mix, report turnaround time and more.|
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.
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|
When evaluating these systems, prospective buyers should consider the following:
Integration requirements. If purchasing a standalone RIS system, ensure the system integrates with existing PAC and EHR software. Also, assess the timeline until existing PAC and EHR systems need replacing. If additional purchases will be required in the near future, consider investing in a single, integrated platform.
Support for existing workflows. Evaluate whether RIS solutions support existing workflows or if they will need to be implemented by a third-party vendor. Common workflows include order entry, scheduling, worklist management, examination documentation and interpretation, report generation, results distribution and billing.
When implementing a RIS, buyers should primarily expect to realize the following benefits:
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.
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