Using the EHR to Improve Imaging Care

The development of the electronic health record (EHR) is coincident and synergistic with other technologies that are revolutionizing the practice of radiology. Radiologists may now enjoy complete access to health information, evolving capabilities in image archiving and analysis, and instant access to the world’s medical literature through the internet and personal electronic devices.

Consequently, the future practice of radiology will entail significant management of information as well as more traditional image interpretation. With new capabilities will come new challenges in workflow, but more importantly, new opportunities in patient care. These will include improved interpretation accuracy, customization of patient care, and a higher profile in patient management. Where traditional radiology has been pattern-based and image-centric, the new radiology will become more knowledge-based and patient-centric.

The EHR is central to this transition. In traditional radiology, the communication of pertinent clinical data is generally unidirectional from clinician to imager. Utilization of clinical data in the new radiology will be interactive, requiring a willingness to mine the EHR and influence medical management. This offers the potential for customized care well beyond that afforded by the traditional radiology approach, and in so doing, will empower our clinical colleagues to provide superior patient care.

To this end, our recent manuscript in Health Affairs estimates the importance the EHR on head CT interpretation accuracy. Future posts will provide insights into how to incorporate knowledge-based, patient-centric strategies into clinical radiology practice.

John L Ulmer, MD, Froedtert Hospital and The Medical College of Wisconsin.

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