Imaging informatics: your questions answered (February)

The SCoR's IM+T advisory group answers your questions every month

Published: 25 January 2021 Information management & technology

The member who submitted our Question of the Month will receive a copy of the group’s textbook Clark's PACS, RIS & Imaging Informatics. Send your questions to: [email protected]

Question of the Month: What is imaging informatics and what does the group focus on?

A: By their nature, both therapeutic and diagnostic radiology departments are data rich portions of a healthcare service. Even prior to modern systems being widely integrated, extensive records and audits of most processes in a department were kept. Imaging informatics is, quite simply, the specialty within radiology of the use of technology to acquire, process, store and display in the best and most efficient and safe ways all of this patient data. In recent years this has made the ever-increasing workload easier to manage from both a financial and staffing perspective.

Technology is ever developing and the speciality requires a lot of forward planning to be sure the right solutions are presented and available to the right healthcare professionals at the right time. The Society's IM+T Advisory Group (RIG) has recently concentrated on education, with members of the group continuing the national non-profit training courses in informatics, authoring texts and providing information via online elearning platforms as well as directly to groups such as students and trainees.

Engagement with other professional groups, including working with other specialisms and industries, helps the group remain in a position to offer advice and guidance on technologies that affect clinical work. Many members of the group took part in the Covid-19 response as informatics services across the country were required to rapidly adapt and respond to the evolving outbreak with limited resources.

More member questions arising from the January’s Synergy News article on EPRs:
Q: What is the future for EPRs?
A: EPR solutions more readily ‘speaking to each other’ is the next step.
Q: What benefits do EPRs have for radiology?
A: pacsgroup.org/cutthepaperchain provides an overview from a 2009 Synapse article.
Q: Will EPRs include a PACS Viewer in the future? Do you think they will store thumbnails or always force access on the PACS to view the images?
A: Results shown in an EPR (lab/radiology/cardiology) are generally accessed via a link. The system of origin (PACS etc) usually is the 'owner' of the imaging storage.
Q: Portability and EPRs - how can patients ensure continuity when different EPRs are used around the world (and even in the UK)?
A: Technically, interoperability toolkits can be used whereby systems have standards that allow them to talk to each other. Practically, there are the principles recently laid out by the BMA at: pacsgroup.org/bmasharing
Q: Given that we have EPRs ‘forced’ on radiology, should we have radiology clerks trained and managing the content on them too?
A: Technology is used as a tool these days. Training is the only way to achieve efficient and safe usage. As to who receives that training, that is a management of change proposition.
Q: Is it normal for radiology departments or PACS teams to have a say in / administer EPRs?
A: Yes it is normal, especially for patient administration (eg new patients to the hospital that are referred from GPs, mental health, non-medical referrers) where radiology may be the first point of contact and need to register these patients.
Q: How should patients who opt-out of data storage be treated on EPRs?
A: Using the same process as those who opt out of RIS and PACS data storage. Organisations should have a Standard Operating Procedure for handling these requests.
Q: The article mentions training problems. Could you expand on this please?
A: The main problem is the numbers of staff that need to be trained prior to a go-live, especially if using a big bang approach ie the whole hospital at once. If there are delays to the go-live, staff will need refresher training as well as support on the day. This all adds up.

Do you have an informatics question? The Society’s IM+T Advisory Group (RIG) wants to hear from you. Send your questions to: [email protected] We offer a copy of the Clark’s PACS book to each month’s top member question answered in the magazine.