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Healthcare system CIOs and other buyers looking for vendor neutral archives either to replace picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) or tie into them should keep these six tips in mind, according to Joe Marion, principal at Healthcare Integration Strategies LLC, a self-described "vendor-neutral consultant."
- image management system -- that is, a true VNA. Don't overshoot. Match your need to vendors' capabilities. If you're seeking just to replace a radiology PACS, that's a different technology set than an enterprise-grade
- Image formats: Simple or robust? If you need to support only a radiology department, you could be satisfied with a relatively simple system based on the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard. But if your goal is to integrate with an HIE or connect far-flung campuses in a larger healthcare system, you'll likely want a VNA that is by cross-enterprise document sharing for imaging, or XDS-I, so the program's repository and registry can support interoperability within the healthcare system's larger infrastructure. Both cloud and enterprise systems can handle XDS.
- Take image viewer into account. Look at the capabilities and quality of the universal viewer that works with the VNA. If you're looking beyond simple replacement of a cardiology or radiology PACS, consider how the VNA links into your EHR. Otherwise, audition zero-footprint universal viewers.
- Figure in existing document management systems. To achieve the best interoperability, review your options for image management capability and the relationship between your image archives and document management technology.
- Cross-check VNA's features against your retention policies and regulations. Consider the vendor's ability to integrate image retention rule sets to manage clinical content. And keep in mind the costs for hardware storage involved in keeping images accessible for various time periods.
- Factor in ROI -- in some cases. There's no need to evaluate ROI if you are replacing a PACS. But if you are putting together an image-enabling EHR system networked to a VNA, calculate the ROI.
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