From Radiology to… Archeology?
Imaging Industry Standards Enable AI Adoption
A typical, mature healthcare organization’s Information Technology (IT) landscape has many attributes in common with an archeological excavation or dig. Often when deploying interoperability solutions, one comes across the occasional skeleton in the network closet. The deeper we dig into the history of a hospital’s infrastructure, the more we can retrace the history of decisions made by the IT department. Through forensic discovery, much can be learned about the technological context and priorities present at the time a solution was deployed, and about the level of competence and innovative solutions offered by IT vendors at that time. All of these historical elements have a direct impact on current projects, one way or the other.
I can’t help but draw a close analogy between the growth of trees, IT infrastructure, and their gradual evolution. I’ve always been fascinated by the concentric circles in the cross-section of a tree because it’s like time travel; growth takes place from the inside out, the inner layers never disappear and become a permanent part of the tree’s infrastructure. New layers build upon their predecessors, and much can be learned from each of the strata. If the tree experienced extreme drought, the layer that year will be ultra-thin. Conversely, if there was substantial rainfall the following year, the next concentric circle in the cross-section will be much thicker.
Feast or Famine: Health IT Budget Constraints Impact Innovation
The Hidden Cost of Poor Documentation
During a massive EHR/EMR and data center migration project many years ago, the discovery team taking inventory in the data center was faced with the sad reality that many servers had little to no documentation available to identify their purpose. Through a tedious empirical process, in most cases, they were able to recreate a functional map. In a handful of hopeless cases, they had to resort to disconnecting servers, crossing their fingers, and bracing for the inevitable support tickets and varying degrees of end-user anger (and panic), interlaced with colorful expletives.
For every new solution adopted, countless IT resources must investigate the solution, validate its utility,verify that it won’t introduce security vulnerabilities or HIPAA violations, document the ROI, negotiate procurement, plan for deployment, and map out where it fits within the ecosystem. They will meticulously interface the newest gizmo with other pieces of software, and (hopefully) document the interfaces so they may be maintained appropriately over time, even in the eventual absence of those who deployed them years before.
The enterprise imaging category is no stranger to these challenges. Although imaging constitutes a mere subset of the overall IT infrastructure, it is a demanding and resource-intensive constituent among IT end-users. This is particularly true in the areas of network traffic, storage requirements and processing power for some of the most advanced imaging applications such as 3D modeling, Tomosynthesis (3D mammography) or functional MRI.
Creating a Sustainable and Interoperable IT Environment In Enterprise Imaging
A hospital’s IT department has a responsibility to make technology choices that generally empower IT to address many of the basic issues themselves, without having to open a ticket with the vendor for every little change request, or challenge encountered. Armed with the right competence and the right toolset, your health IT staff can consistently be superheros for the organization.
In the future, solutions we deploy today will be examined by the next generation of IT archeologists. What sort of legacy will we leave for them to discover? What will they think of our work? How confidently will they retrace our steps? If we all did our work correctly, and clearly documented the intended data flows and topology in the statement of work (SOW), we won’t be leaving a puzzle for someone else to solve in the future!
Dicom Systems has shown that it is possible, and highly desirable, to deploy smart, vendor-neutral, technology that can solve a multitude of interoperability, routing and integration challenges within one platform, without the usual and customary high cost, and without compromising the integrity of the care continuum. To learn more about the Unifier platform contact us to request a demo.