Big Cottonwood Canyon

How KLAS Brought Imaging Leaders Together

I recently had the opportunity sit as a fly on the wall in a gathering of some of the greatest minds in healthcare imaging. Among the still-snow-capped mountains of Utah sat individuals KLAS had gathered from both provider and vendor organizations. One of the most refreshing parts of the Keystone Summit, aside from the mountain air, was the candor with which the participants interacted. KLAS President Adam Gale jokingly remarked that the participants were probably so familiar with each other because “at least half of you have worked for GE at some point.”

In reality, the Keystone Summit was a gathering of industry leaders who, because of their long associations and friendships, were able to take off their “provider” or “vendor” titles and come together as peers with a single focus: how to tackle the challenge of Enterprise Imaging. The summit centered on several key goals, which included creating a vehicle for measuring vendor performance, identifying keys to success, and defining specific functionality needed for an enterprise imaging solution.

 “It comes down to finding something that will set the space on fire. Where is the pain point that will incentivize executives into providing these resources?” asked Adam. “One of the things that was mentioned during our breakout sessions was that PACS solutions never really caught on until the 64-slice CT came along. It’s impossible for an image like that to be on film, and so providers had to install PACS solutions.”

Adam’s question is an interesting one. What is the fire that will drive Enterprise Imaging adoption?

After the Summit, I had the chance to wait for the elevator with several of the attendees. I posed the question, “What’s the next step for enterprise imaging?” We came to the determination that, in all likelihood, the catalyst for industry adoption will come down to either regulatory motivation or a revenue pain point. As healthcare continues its transition from free-for-service to value-based models, healthcare organizations will need to rethink the ways they view their imaging. While imaging has traditionally been a revenue generator for providers, value-based care may result in imaging becoming a cost center instead.

About two years ago, I wrecked a friend’s motorcycle. It’s a tribute to his generosity that we stayed friends afterward. Aside from destroying the bike, the crash broke a few bones in my right hand. The urgent care facility (luckily not the ER or the morgue) was the first place I went, and there I received the first of three separate x-rays that would all be taken with an initial diagnosis in mind. I say three x-rays because the urgent care referred me to an orthopedic clinic, which then referred me to another specialist, all of whom took new images of the same problem. While it wasn’t a big deal, I did wonder what could be done to streamline the process.

Hopefully, the push toward truly interoperable systems will make stories like mine things of the past. Once fee-for-value models turn imaging into a cost center, providers will feel an even greater need to capture an image only once, have it tagged with the correct metadata, and store the image in a place that is accessible across the entire continuum of care. As with many advancements in technology, enterprise imaging may be born out of financial need.

The other avenue we discussed, regulatory motivation, may come even more quickly than the shift to value-based care. As US healthcare continues to be scrutinized by both Democrats and Republicans and ACA is threatened, we may see government statues do for imaging what meaningful use did for EMRs. This seems especially likely in that, as Dr. Alex Towbin explained during the Summit, an enterprise EMR really is incomplete without an enterprise imaging solution to supplement it.

I’m not sure which path enterprise imaging will take to reach widespread adoption. However, watching the proceedings of the Keystone Summit convinced me that when healthcare organizations are finally ready to move forward in enterprise imaging, they will find that much of the groundwork has already been laid for them by passionate advocates from both sides of the provider/vendor aisle.

The complete results of the Keystone Summit can be read in the Enterprise Imaging White Paper, which is available to the public at no cost.