ICIS: much more than just a place to store pictures

When health IT stakeholders discuss new technology as a boon to information exchange, chances are the information they’re talking about consists primarily of words and numbers. 

But what about images? While patient information may indeed consist in large part of text and numerical data, there’s no denying that images play a rapidly increasing role in the treatment of patients. 

With ICIS, the Imaging Clinical Information System, Agfa HealthCare has made patient-centric imaging data readily accessible across the healthcare enterprise. Much more than merely a way to store images, ICIS is a holistic solution to the challenge of storing, accessing, and sharing the images that are a critical part of healthcare.  

ICIS unifies patient records by integrating and linking multi-facility, multi-departmental and multi-specialty imaging data, and the benefits to providers and patients throughout healthcare organizations take many forms.

For example, emergency departments can benefit by having a patient’s complete imaging record available when a patient arrives, with the additional information providing a stronger basis for decision support that can lead to improved outcomes. Similarly, having access across the enterprise improves physician-to-physician consult capabilities and strengthens evidential support for decisionmaking.

In short, ICIS allows all clinicians involved in a patient’s care to have access to imaging information regardless of the specific care setting. The result is more confident and efficient care decisions due both to more comprehensive clinical information, accessible directly within the EHR, and to more direct access to reference viewing that eliminates the distraction of worrying about IT processes. In other words, ICIS enables physicians to focus on care, and not on figuring out how to access clinical data.

As James Jay, vice president of imaging informatics for Agfa HealthCare, put it recently, “As the use of images grows, so does the challenge of enabling access to images to all care providers.  In addition, as more departments generate imaging data, simply consolidating storage does not solve the problem. Clinical workflow is needed to acquire, distribute, and review these images.”

In addition, access to reference viewing of imaging information is of benefit to patients and those who help care for them. Images can help in patient education and can serve as an empowering reference point in support of physician/patient and physician/physician collaboration to improve the quality and safety of care.

Of course, in the rapidly changing world of health IT, an organization’s internal innovation goals are likely influenced by healthcare reform incentives.  In particular, with the federal government’s emphasis on the “meaningful use” of health IT, providers that want to stay abreast of evolving regulations must have the technology in place that will enable them to do so.

In the case of images, for example, Stage 2 Menu Objectives of the federal meaningful use guidelines address image sharing within the EHR, an important requirement for both HIEs and patient engagement. To meet the relevant imaging objective, providers who wish to qualify for meaningful use need to have at least 10 percent of all scans and tests whose result is an image for patients admitted to its inpatient or emergency department must be accessible through the EHR.

While the guidelines for Stage 3 are still being developed, and a final figure for image availability has yet to be settled upon, the trend is crystal clear.  Providers that want to remain in the vanguard of change, then, need the most comprehensive, forward-looking enterprise imaging solutions available.

As Agfa HealthCare’s James Jay summed it up, “ICIS delivers a comprehensive framework to enable flexible workflows and bring images into every step of the care continuum. This gives clinicians a single point of access for all imaging data, integrated into the electronic health record, which can help reduce duplicate procedures and enable a highly efficient care process.”