Unsung Heroes of Health IT

As a Health IT company, Dicom Systems lives at the intersection of multiple worlds, each of which exerts a substantial influence on our work. We are often expected to troubleshoot a VMware or network-related issue with as much proficiency as a Dicom Modality Worklist or Dicom Web Viewer issue are governed by a different set of priorities than a purely IT-driven company. Privacy and security protocols are some of the most obvious manifestations of this distinction. Healthcare as an industry has historically been a laggard when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. After all, IT solutions can have a direct impact on patient outcomes, both positive and negative.

Such is our dilemma. Health IT companies and Dicom Systems are no exception, often going through an identity crisis when attempting to answer this question. The most accurate answer is, we must be both.

However, the past decade has seen significant acceleration of technology adoption among caregiving organizations, turning healthcare from a laggard to a well-informed, highly-educated, early-adopting sector. A staggering number of Health IT companies have blossomed, either founded by, or advised by driven and innovative physicians. Venture capital and private equity firms routinely employ healthcare professionals in their quest for a good investment in Healthcare; some physicians even become Entrepreneurs in residence or venture partners, reviewing promising business plans until the right opportunity comes along for them to jump in.

As clinical end-users become increasingly entrenched in their digital lives (social media), they have come to expect the same level of connectedness in their work as they experience in their personal lives. Evolving end-user sophistication and expectations, combined with increased government pressure and financial incentive to adopt electronic medical records, are pressuring Health IT vendors to accelerate the rate of innovation and roll out new features and capabilities faster than ever before.

The ubiquity of regulatory, security, and privacy constraints as we respond to end-user needs, can transform a routine support call into a delicate mission. Contextual awareness is paramount for tech support professionals, and there is no such thing as a routine, cookie-cutter response to a support ticket. We often find ourselves educating our own customers on what would constitute a HIPAA violation or security breach, and how to safely and securely share PHI with our support group.

Dicom Systems personnel are expected to be fluent in virtually every aspect of healthcare IT. Because our technology touches so many vital parts of the Healthcare Enterprise, we often get the first tech support call, ahead of the modality or PACS/MIMPS vendors. We then need to quickly identify the root cause of an issue and, even when Dicom Systems is not the culprit, we still inexorably become involved in the process of fixing the issue, in collaboration with the other vendors. This is in part based on the depth and breadth of logging and advanced tools available in the Dicom System Unifier platform, which allows IT professionals to quickly identify the likely cause of an issue.

When we recruit new technical talent, we often debate what’s most effective: do we hire a smart engineer with little to no healthcare experience, and teach them healthcare? Or should we hire someone who has healthcare workflow knowledge but limited pure IT experience? More often than not, we opt for the former and teach them healthcare. This choice can be situational, no matter what experience the candidate offers, overall competence and communication abilities will prevail in our choice.

In our industry, we are often equated to the “plumbers” who quietly and efficiently make sure water flows to the faucet, images to the viewer, and reports to the referring physician. Being the plumbers can be rather unglamorous as our work is rarely visible to caregivers, and never visible to patients. Our satisfaction comes from knowing that we are putting our IT knowledge and experience to good use every day by maintaining continuous enterprise imaging workflows with minimal human intervention. In our own way, we contribute to caregivers’ ability to help improve patient outcomes.