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4/21/2011
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Healthcare Providers Prize PACS-RIS Integration

Clinicians want seamless integration between picture archiving and communication systems and radiology information systems and will sacrifice some functionality to achieve it, according to a KLAS survey.

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Providers that are considering making investments in radiology information systems (RIS) and picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), say they are looking for vendors that offer not only functionality, but also smooth integration between both systems, a KLAS survey has revealed. The poll also showed that providers are willing to sacrifice functionality to achieve integration, but would prefer both.

Released Tuesday, the report--"Ambulatory RIS/PACS: Integrating Provider Needs"--relied on interviews with more than 500 provider facilities about their RIS and PACS vendors. In addition to integration, providers say other considerations weighing heavily on their decision to purchase RIS or PACS systems are cost, technology, functionality, and service.

The report noted that RIS and PACS on a single database offer providers a streamlined product with a single interface. The result is fewer integration points and less maintenance and training for IT staff. Additionally, these products can be offered as a package deal and are often sold at a reduced cost. Providers say they are very satisfied with vendors offering a single-database RIS/PACS vendors such as CoActiv, DR Systems, and Infinitt offer the perks of tight integration--including easy maintenance, consistent look and feel of the PACS and RIS, and, in some cases, lower cost. CoActiv is the top scoring vendor in the report with 89% approving of their systems. Infinitt had the second highest score with 86%. DR Systems placed third with 85%.

Monique Rasband, KLAS research director and author of the report, said integration often translates into increased provider satisfaction when looking at in the combined RIS/PACS markets, but also noted there are some exceptions to that rule.

“Single-side vendors that offer only one side of a RIS or PACS solution like MedInformatix and Intelerad do exceptionally well in the RIS and PACS markets, respectively. Because they do not need to focus on integrating a RIS and PACS solution, single-side vendors can hone in on functionality,” Rasband said.

Generally speaking, vendors that offer RIS and PACS systems on a separate database have more trouble with integration and providers report being less impressed with them. For example, GE and Agfa have yet to achieve a level of integration that has pleased providers. Agfa is the most vulnerable PACS vendor, and GE is the most vulnerable RIS vendor. Not only do these vendors struggle to integrate their RIS and PACS, but the service is below par as well, the report found.

Fuji bucks the trend, and wows providers in both the RIS and PACS market, taking second place in RIS and third place in PACS, which is very rare. Though not on a single-database, providers feel that it performs similarly to a single-database system.

Additionally, market consolidation and poor vendor performance are driving nearly one in ten providers to switch vendors. Other providers are in a holding pattern due to uncertainty in the market. In the future providers are concerned with seeing some new development from their vendors.

“Providers want to see vendors adding new modules like mammography viewing, and they want good web-based functionality--as well as upgrades that come out on time and are well tested,” said Rasband.

The report comes at a time when many providers have put their purchasing plans on hold due to the uncertainty of the market. “Many are unwilling to make the financial investment in a new vendor because they are not sure what their future holds in regard to meaningful use (MU), reimbursements, and consolidation of providers.

Though Stage 1 of MU did not include radiology directly, the market has responded with some consolidation affecting multispecialty clinics, physicians, radiology groups, and others not currently under a hospital,” the report said.

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