PACS-EMR integration saves radiologists time, improves EMR utilization

Integration of PACS with an electronic medical record (EMR) is associated with saving radiologists time and helping them access the EMR more frequently, according to a new study in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

The authors began their study by noting EMRs are an “enormously valuable source of data” for radiologists, but they can also potentially disrupt workflow.

“Since PACS have generally been developed and implemented separately from (and often prior to) EMRs, the EMR has historically been an additional system that exists outside of PACS,” wrote authors John Mongan, MD, PhD, and David Avrin, MD, PhD, with the department of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco. “Thus, to obtain clinical data from the EMR, a radiologist has generally had to turn away from the PACS, launch a separate EMR application (possibly on a separate workstation), log in to the EMR, and then manually transcribe the medical record number of the patient of interest.”

To test the value of integration between PACS and the EMR—which, they noted, may require purchasing new solutions—the authors studied how integration affected their own medical center. Overall, they found that accessing the most recent clinical note in the EMR took a mean time of 6 seconds with integration and 52 seconds without integration. In addition, radiologist-initiated EMR access increased from more than 36 percent before integration to more than 44 percent after integration. EMR use was also found to increase over time following integration, a trend that did not exist prior to integration.

“This study showed that patient context integration of the PACS with the EMR significantly reduced the time for a radiologist to access clinical data in the EMR, and that this increased efficiency was associated with a substantial increase in EMR utilization by radiologists,” Mongan and Avrin wrote. “EMR usage continued to increase throughout the post-integration period.”

The authors concluded that PACS-EMR integration is about much more for radiologists than being “a matter of convenience”—it truly improves patient care and helps specialists demonstrate their value.

“There is substantial aggregate time savings provided by integration,” Mongan and Avrin wrote. “More importantly, these time savings organically drive changes in radiologist practice projected to change diagnosis in 1 out of every 200 cases read. We believe that in light of these results, PACS-EMR patient context integration should be considered an essential component of every PACS environment.”