Is technology to blame for rising costs?

Oct. 21, 2013

In the past, technology costs were often driven up when new technology was not used properly or by everyone, and the facility ended up maintaining an “analog” workflow and a digital workflow, which is very expensive. Healthcare IT solutions that were independent silos also contributed to higher costs because, as an example, using PACS often required the purchase and integration of a separate reporting/dictation system and a third-party advanced post-processing workstation. 

Carestream is changing its approach to healthcare IT solutions in ways that help reduce costs. The dictation and reporting process is now part of our PACS system, not a separate component. We realize we must not only focus on productivity (i.e., ability to read more exams), but also the ability to eliminate information silos and improve access to results when needed. When it becomes available, our new PACS platform is designed to help lower costs while helping enable a higher level of care. Delivering access to key image data and prior imaging studies/reports is intended to give radiologists and referring physicians quick and easy access to patient information. This will be a more efficient system that can help physicians deliver better patient care.  

The new PACS teleradiology module can also help deliver better care by providing fully featured remote reading of exams by remote specialists, without requiring significant investment by healthcare facilities or radiology/teleradiology groups. This also has the ability to enhance patient care without raising costs, and may in some cases lower costs by existing teleradiology services. 

– Cristine Kao, global marketing director, healthcare information solutions, Carestream Health

Our meaningful use-certified systems are used to both improve patient care and qualify radiologists for incentives provided by the Affordable Care Act. These incentives help offset the technology investment and provide a long-term improvement in the outpatient provider service delivery.

Productivity and ergonomics are a big part of our radiology PACS improvements. Radiologists can read faster while maintaining diagnostic integrity. These improvements lower the cost per exam while not sacrificing quality of care. 

– Jim Morgan, vice president, medical informatics, FUJIFILM Medical Systems U.S.A. Inc.

Tuomey Healthcare, an Amcom Critical Test Results Management user, cut costs in its emergency department with an 11 percent improvement in average patient discharge time. This is because physicians who order exams are alerted as soon as results are available. This saves time because patient treatment plans can begin sooner, and patients with normal results can go home faster. Tuomey requires that all critical test results are acknowledged within 30 minutes. If not, messages are automatically escalated to another physician. 

– Brian Edds, vice president, product strategy, Amcom Software

The healthcare industry continues to require capabilities for increased imaging complexity, increased diagnostic imaging volume and increased competition, all while facing reduced reimbursements and increased regulatory requirements. New IT solutions can help medical practitioners improve patient outcomes while streamlining productivity and reducing costs.

As our industry continues to evolve and grow in complexity, no solution can be an island on its own. Agfa HealthCare is focused on delivering a complete centralized and accessible picture of the patient’s full health record, delivering broad imaging and clinical information systems that expand beyond radiology and typical imaging roles, all while increasing departmental and imaging capabilities to facilitate reduced patient healthcare costs through better use of IT infrastructure and less administrative overhead. 

– Lenny J. Reznik, director, enterprise – image and information systems, Agfa HealthCare

As a healthcare IT provider, we understand that the rising cost of healthcare has many diverse and complex aspects, and how technology is used is just one piece of the puzzle. However, it is not that all technology can be wrapped into this situation. Some technologies (like modalities, silo’d solutions) may be escalating the problems, while other technologies are correctly designed to improve workflow and be interoperable in a complex, heterogeneous environment to help improve productivity and patient outcomes. Reconciling the needs and demands of separate clinical silos to final a solution that works equally well for everyone is a common problem, and this transition is often a business and strategic change as much as it is architectural.

At McKesson, we feel that it is not necessarily a newly invented product that is needed to address healthcare IT challenges and to manage costs, but rather how we help our customers innovate and adapt to the every changing demands, which will help them be successful.

For example: today’s CEOs, radiology managers, etc., should be considering these issues: 

How does the radiologist communicate to specialists and the referring physician? Is there intelligent workflow in place that allows for timely information sharing among departments, for example, from Emergency Department to radiologist, critical test results management, PQRS, radiation dose tracking? 

How do you manage regulatory changes, such as meaningful use, ICD-10, radiation dose monitoring, with intelligent workflow management systems? How do you integrate this into workflow that produces helpful quality analytics? Is the radiology department able to communicate these findings to the primary care physicians through patient-centric data sharing via a PACS-agnostic EHR?

If you’re considering a PACS replacement you need to evaluate the entire ecosystem and innovative technologies that will help expand beyond radiology into cardiology and other specialties.  

How can your PACS scale to meet the demands for today and beyond – into 2020?

Today most health systems are evaluating enterprise image management solutions in much the same way. There are strong strategies and financial directions an organization wants to take, and they seek to find solutions that fit into those strategies. The solutions can’t break the bank, however, and there still needs to be value put on workflow.

– Tom Coppa, senior technical consultant, McKesson Corp.

Technology only becomes meaningful innovation when it makes life better for clinicians and their patients. Better medicine will beat more medicine every time – and it should. Philips is able to think differently because we are dedicated to improving and saving lives across the continuum of care. We develop our solutions in partnership with clinicians and customers and are dedicated to transforming the way care is delivered, including ensuring economic value. As just one example of this, EPIQ, our new first-of-its-kind ultrasound system, can reduce the need for costly repeat exams and reduce exam time by up to 30 percent, translating to a more streamlined workflow that can contribute to cost reductions. This is the kind of thinking behind everything we’re unveiling at RSNA and that’s why we say we are transforming care together. 

– Gene Saragnese, executive vice president & CEO, imaging systems, Philips Healthcare

This is an interesting finding and suggests effort in identifying cost-effective technologies.  However, many different aspects of our healthcare system can have an impact on the continually rising healthcare costs in the U.S., among them a fee-for-services reimbursement system; an older, sicker population that tends to need more medical care; and barriers to universal evidence-based practices that improve patient outcomes.

In recent years, health spending has been growing at historically low levels. The Office of the Actuary (OACT) in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that national health spending grew by 3.9 percent each year from 2009 to 2011. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of how the economy affects national health spending concludes that this record slow growth rate stems largely from economic factors beyond the health system, with the economy explaining 77 percent of the slow-down. More rapid growth is expected in coming years if the economy strengthens as many expect. And now with the Affordable Care Act launched, there is disagreement on its possible long-term effects on the economy and on the healthcare industry.

The digital radiography products and solutions we will showcase at the 99th RSNA are designed to help Radiography Departments increase productivity and flexibility. RadPRO digital Radiography solutions with Canon digital detectors provide high-resolution imaging vital for accurate diagnosis with low dose, and importantly, are designed help our customers accelerate the exam process and gain workflow efficiencies.

– James Hamilton, manager, healthcare marketing, Canon Healthcare Solutions Division

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