April 28, 2020

Q&A Session: Enabling Remote Working Environments For Radiologists

2 Strategies with 3 Approaches

Strategies and specific approaches your radiology group or department might utilize to facilitate a more flexible work environment.

For the past several years, Canopy Partners has been focused on enabling radiologists to be able to read any study from any location in a highly uniform method which enables radiology to achieve additional flexibility and efficiency without sacrificing quality. As we see and hear from radiology groups desiring to move some number of reading rooms out of the hospital into other spaces, we wanted to offer up what knowledge we have in assistance during these unique times. This Q&A session is held with our subject matter expert - Stephen Willis, VP of Advanced Technology Solutions, and Reed Humphrey, VP of Technology Consulting at Canopy Partners.

Remote Radiology

This Q&A session is held with our subject matter expert - Stephen Willis, VP of Advanced Technology Solutions, and Reed Humphrey, VP of Technology Consulting at Canopy Partners.

REED: Good afternoon, Stephen. From watching the online forums along with hearing from our customers in the market, it’s quite a time for radiology. A common theme we are hearing is the desire for radiologists to be more flexible in terms of the places from which they read. What have you seen successful groups doing during these times?

STEPHEN: We are seeing radiology departments and radiology groups utilize a couple of approaches to expand the number and types of locations from which radiologists can read. The first approach is establishing a “reading bunker” outside of the hospital. Something like an office space where multiple reading rooms can be set up to allow physicians to be physically separate in different offices but in a generally common location. This has a unique advantage in that these spaces already exist and often have high speed connectivity into the hospital, but aren’t being currently used due to current work from home policies. In this unique circumstance, these are perfect spaces for radiologists to land in the event working in the actual hospital or imaging centers isn’t what the radiology group or hospital desires. Another reason this is attractive to radiology groups is that security concerns are normally muted if the connectivity is already in place. The second strategy is sending radiologists home to work. Some groups have home read stations in place at some or all radiologists’ homes. But others who do not are figuring out how to move or procure read stations and setting up the correct security and access rights to allow reading from home in an efficient manner. Both of these strategies allow groups to be more flexible about where they work, but unfortunately many radiology groups and hospitals cannot employ strategies this simple, so we have other strategies for those groups.

REED: OK, so radiologists can establish reading rooms outside of the hospital in currently unused administrative space, and they can read from home. Why might this not work well for all groups?

STEPHEN: Unfortunately many radiologists don’t read out of a single platform or even on a single reading station, so the need to establish additional reading locations comes with the burden of a difficult choice. Can they bring multiple reading stations into a separate space such as an office or home, or can they change out normally subspecialized workflow to a more general workflow where a remote radiologist is only covering facilities that utilize the platform which they are currently have access to? This is really untenable for most groups we talk to. They’ve cobbled together a mish mash of read stations on different platforms in different locations which allow them to perform subspecialty reads or cover multiple EDs from a handful of single locations when working normally, but the prospect of relocating these properly is quite difficult. They might have one or two bunkers where they can cover multiple facilities on multiple read stations, but setting this up in each radiologists’ home would be prohibitive both financially and physically.

REED: So what is a radiology group to do if they may want or need to relocate their reading rooms? How can this be done in a simplified way?

STEPHEN: There are a couple of strategies we recommend here. The solve-all to this issue is the Unified Radiology Platform. In terms of definition, this means that all studies from sending facilities along with the HL7 orders and demographics are sent or forwarded to a single common platform from which the radiologists interpret. For the radiologists, this means a single PACS, Voice Recognition, Worklist, and read station. When done properly, the radiologists’ environment is highly normalized so that no matter the sending facility, everything “feels” the same to the radiologist. This is both the most efficient and highest quality way we know to perform radiology. Groups who have been forward looking enough to employ a single platform from which they read all studies, no matter the technology in place at sending facilities, have a huge leg up in this environment. We know one group who in under a week took over vacated office space across the street from their main hospital and set up 9 private reading rooms. In less than 2 weeks they’ll have 9 additional read stations set up at home and in three weeks they’ll have a total of 22 home read stations deployed. This flexibility came from the group unifying all of their interpretation into a single unified platform which they control. So when the current pandemic begin taking shape some weeks ago, they went ahead and started putting plans in place to order read stations and/or move read stations to those locations. So as you can see, the radiologists being unified on a single interpretation platform is key.

REED: OK, so a radiology group reading out of a unified radiology platform clearly has options and flexibility that a group reading out of multiple does not. How difficult is this to set up?

STEPHEN: Normally this is a long sales cycle followed by hardware procurement and then a 6-8 month project due to the time needed to work out security permissions, and then of course meticulously architect the system in conjunction with hospital IT staff. But these are clearly unique times and circumstances, so we have partnered with Intelerad to offer a quickly deployed solution that can allow radiologists to read remotely during this time. By utilizing private cloud hosting and proven clinical platform partners, we can offer HIPAA compliant softwares coupled with a deep experience in radiology hosting and connectivity to offer your group a highly compressed timeframe in which to deploy your own temporary URP, cutting the above windows rather dramatically.