The work of radiology departments is related to medical imaging and making diagnoses. But behind the scenes, their day-to-day tasks include many other things, like setting up appointments, billing, and reporting. If done by hand, these boring tasks take a lot of time, create a lot of paperwork, and result in many phone calls.
Fortunately, modern imaging centers can give a lot of tasks to a special software called a RIS radiology information system. Diagnostic centers and departments are investing more and more in RISs to cut down on administrative costs. North American radiologists are the most likely to use new technology.
Radiology Information System: What Is It?
A radiology information system stores, manages and shares data from radiology departments and diagnostic imaging centers. It simplifies patient registration, scheduling, order tracking, invoicing, and reporting. RIS helps radiologists, doctors, administrators, and medical staff collaborate.
What can a RIS do? It depends on the service provider and the needs of the people who will use it. Most of the time, though, the radiology software will have modules for the following things.
Keeping track of patient information (registration, scheduling, tracking). The RIS allows radiology centers to eliminate paper-based documentation by digitizing patient registration and scheduling. Radiologists and doctors can also examine the full patient history and see if the diagnosis has changed.
Order tracking. The system keeps track of all the orders for diagnostic imaging from when a doctor puts in a request until the exam is done. So, users can keep track of images and information about them.
Billing. RIS software makes electronic invoices for imaging exams and supports the medical codes used for billing (ICD-10 and CPT.) When this step is done automatically, there are fewer mistakes, which means there is no chance of a payment being delayed or denied.
Reporting and analytics. Generating information on patient no-shows, radiologist workload, the dollar volume of exams, and other crucial elements of the radiology department lifecycle is another strong selling point of the RIS. An analytical dashboard can convey the results in full visual formats. Managers can then solve performance issues and bottlenecks due to this.
Role-based access. Different employees, such as administrators, managers, nurses, radiologists, medical coders, and so on, usually use the RIS. The role-based access makes it harder for workers to use features and data they don’t need to do their current jobs.
Resource management. The RIS can store information about the stock of materials and make it easy to find when needed. This helps radiology managers choose the right investment opportunities, cut costs, and keep their budgets in good shape.
Dictation support. Many modern radiology systems have a voice recognition module built-in. This lets doctors take notes and use the software without using their hands.
HIPAA compliance mechanisms. Protected health information (PHI), or patient data with personal identifiers, is always a part of radiology software. Because of this, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects people’s privacy, applies to your RIS. Common HIPAA violations can lead to penalties, so your system must have built-in security features like automatic backups and logoffs, end-to-end data encryption, etc., to prevent these violations.
The RIS imaging is an important part of the infrastructure for managing health information. For radiology software to work with other systems and share information, it must be in line with the industry-specific healthcare data standards, which are:
- Health Level 7 (HL7) is used for messaging between medical apps.
- Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) is a common way to store and send medical images.
A picture archiving communication system or a vendor-neutral archive. The RIS handles the entire imaging workflow, from when a doctor orders an exam to when the bill is paid. But most of the time, it doesn’t talk directly with radiology modalities. Instead, it gets pictures and information about them from the Mini-PACS. The second one connects to machines immediately, and stores scan in the DICOM format, which is used worldwide.
There can also be a VNA in between modern infrastructures. The VNA’s main job is to ensure that data from different PACSs is the same and can be used by any system.
An electronic health record (EHR) system. This is the most important part of the health IT environment because it is where all the important information about patients is gathered. The RIS must be linked to the EHR system to send imaging results back to the doctor who ordered them.
An enterprise master patient index (EMPI). Most places that provide healthcare have a RIS that works closely with an enterprise master patient index, a database that serves as a single source of truth for patient identities. It gives each person signed up for the hospital system a unique code and stores their name and demographic information. When a new entry is made, the EMPI uses its matching engine to look for records already in the system.
A patient portal. When the link between the RIS and the patient portal is set up, people getting diagnostic imaging can also easily access their results. This makes patients more engaged and happier in general.
Now that you have a general idea of how RIS works and where it fits in the health IT world, let’s get more specific and say, “Okay, our imaging center needs a RIS. Where do we begin?”
What Are the Unique Requirements of Your Radiology Office?
You and your team know your pain points better than any vendor or software development company. Before you buy a new system or add-ons, you should make a clear list of what you need and put it in a request for proposal (RFP).
For RIS implementation to work, the RFP needs to be very detailed. As a result, one person cannot complete it. Some of the experts who will help make it are:
- Radiology department or/ and hospital administrators,
- Health information administrators,
- Clinical engineers, and
- Financial experts.
You’ll better understand and prioritize your objectives and requirements throughout RFP development. This helps you filter down possible tech partners to whom you’ll submit your request.