DICOM metadata provides valuable insight into MRI workflow

Hoping to make worthwhile MRI workflow improvements? Extracting DICOM metadata can provide more accurate, reliable information than RIS data alone, according to findings published in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

“Deep insight into the MRI process can offer points of intervention to help streamline workflow to improve patient experience and throughput, reduce associated healthcare costs, establish exam consistency to support enterprise image interpretation, and provide valuable opportunity for technologist feedback and education,” wrote co-author Ish A. Talati, Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and colleagues. “Historically, we have relied on RIS exam times that are tracked by the technologist. However, this information is frequently manually entered and is often unreliable and inaccurate, especially when compared to automatically generated DICOM timestamps.”

The authors extracted DICOM metadata related to more than 400 MRI examinations from their institution over a 30-day period, defining the beginning, end and duration of each study and series. That data was then combined with correlating RIS data—taken from timestamps manually tracked by technologists—and the findings were summarized so that lessons could be learned and workflow improvements could be implemented.

“DICOM timestamps were considered ground truth because they are automatically generated by the modality at the time of image and series acquisition thus removing or at least reducing error due to manual or delayed retroactive entry,” the authors wrote. “Substantial differences in exam time were noted for all three body parts, and RIS tracking times were consistently and substantially lower compared to DICOM data. This confirmed our suspicion that manually tracked RIS times are unreliable for this type of detailed and granular analysis.”

For example, the authors explained, RIS data tracked by technologists showed the same start and end time for numerous exams. DICOM metadata avoids such issues and paints a better picture of what is actually occurring within a radiology department.