Informatics Meets Patient Care

A new video series traces the patient experience and aligns informatics tools along each step of the way.


October 2015

John is somewhere over the Midwest, trying to read an inane magazine from his seatback pocket, when his head begins to spin and he’s hit with a wave of fatigue. But by the time the plane lands, John is experiencing chest pain, calf swelling, and a high heart rate. He hasn’t officially finished his trip and he is headed to the nearest emergency department.

John’s last name is Doe, and (as you might have guessed) he’s not a real patient. His story is the focus of a video series hosted by the JACR Informatics Resource Center. Throughout John’s journey, the videos discuss the role of informatics and demonstrate how physicians can use the ACR’s latest IT tools to care for their patients more efficiently.

In the ED, the physician assesses John’s symptoms and pulls up ACR Select® to order the most appropriate imaging procedure for John. The verdict is chest CTA.

“The videos really cover the full spectrum of the imaging care process, from the time imaging is being considered until the time the results are delivered to the referring clinician and the patient,” explains Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Economics. “We’re hoping the radiologists who view these videos will understand how critical their input is to that care process and how the technology solutions that ACR is preparing will help them be part of that care process.”

Radiology became involved in John’s care as soon as the ED physician accessed ACR Select, which uses ACR Appropriateness Criteria® to recommend imaging studies. The radiologist confirms pulmonary embolism and initiates the critical-finding pathway, which electronically documents when the finding was reported back to the ED. While reading the exam, she also notices a small liver lesion. Because her dictation system is equipped with ACR Assist™, the radiologist has immediate access to the ACR’s Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System (LI-RADS™), which helps categorize liver findings. ACR Assist categorizes the lesion as benign, requiring no follow-up (and thereby avoiding additional imaging and radiation for John).

“Radiologists have to cover the entire waterfront of health care and have to be facile across many areas of medicine,” states McGinty. “ACR Assist will help radiologists in all specialty areas and aid even general radiologists to be more proficient in the delivery of critical information in the radiology report.”

After his condition stabilizes, John is discharged and finally able to head home. His primary care physician receives his images and radiology report via ACR Connect. The report was created using ACR Common™ (a lexicon of standardized imaging exam names designed to help both the patient and referring physician understand the terminology used within radiology). “Not everyone knows this kind of jargon, and it’s rampant in not just radiology but throughout health care,” McGinty comments. “We are excited about the potential to standardize terminology and ensure that there isn’t a disconnect in the information that the radiologist is providing.”

With technology playing an increasingly central role in health care, it’s never been more important for stakeholders to understand informatics within the full spectrum of the imaging care process. “I would strongly encourage you to begin building the infrastructure for the department of the future,” says Christoph Wald, MD, PhD, FACR, author of the video series and vice chair of the ACR Commission on Informatics. “As far as I’m concerned, that means facilitating patient-centered imaging care, where radiologists create noticeable value to health care delivery, to their referring colleagues, and to their patients.”

By Amena Hassan, freelance writer for the ACR Bulletin

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