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Posted by Greg Freiherr for Konica Minolta Healthcare
Healthcare information technology (IT) can help urgent care centers become more efficient and effective, while delivering superior care to walk-in patients.
Efficiencies resulting from the use of IT are among the factors that affect throughput, according to the 2019 benchmarking report developed by the Urgent Care Association. UCA notes that throughput is mostly influenced by volume, policy and processes and that 97% of patient visits to urgent care centers last less than an hour.
“Symmetry™ PACS (picture archiving and communications system) is a low-cost IT system that not only promotes efficiency, it also reduces the chance of error,” said Tim Kearns, the strategic marketing manager of Healthcare IT at Konica Minolta Healthcare. “Its use means that patient demographics don’t have to be re-entered when taking patient images.”
Kearns described the Konica Minolta product as a cost-effective version of the company’s full enterprise Exa® PACS Platform, one optimized for urgent care. It manages images from modalities including X-ray and ultrasonography, the types of imaging commonly found in the 9,600-plus urgent care centers that operate in the United States.
Easy accessibility helps distinguish urgent care centers from more traditional healthcare destinations, according to the UCA benchmarking report. About 86% of the U.S. centers are open 7 days a week. In late 2019, most of these centers were located in the states of California, Texas, Florida and New York, according to the report.
Symmetry PACS leverages the power of Konica Minolta’s Exa PACS at a price that recognizes tight budgets and the need that urgent care centers have to offer cost-effective, efficient care to walk-in patients. This slimmed down version has only the features needed by urgent care -- not, for example, the radiology information systems (RIS), billing, mammography or cardiology features of Exa. Symmetry PACS does, however, have the power of the Exa Platform.
Its web-based solution provides zero-footprint viewing and server-side rendering technologies with a diagnostic quality viewer, which allows anytime, anywhere access on any device. This facilitates easy clinical collaboration and teleradiology – “wherever and whenever,” Kearns said -- without the need for a VPN or dedicated workstations.
Managing digital disruption
Just as the COVID pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital solutions, such as video conferencing to allow remote work and schooling, so has it led to the increased use of telemedicine. This digital transformation can enable new capabilities for centers that specialize in urgent care.
“An important benefit of Symmetry PACS for urgent care is its scalability,” he said. “The system is designed to manage the needs of a single center -- or several.” Configured for urgent care, Symmetry PACS can handle up to 20,000 exams and 20 concurrent users.
The system also provides a high level of security – an essential consideration when transferring patient information. With server-side rendering, no data are transferred to or stored on workstations. Because data breaches have recently increased, organizations must have confidence in the technology they adopt. Symmetry PACS provides that level of confidence.
Meeting Center Needs
Symmetry PACS is especially suited to the efficiency needed by urgent care centers, Kearns said. Its intelligent worklists are based on DICOM compatibility, which make for efficient management of imaging studies.
Typically the order for an x-ray or ultrasound imaging study comes from the electronic health record (EHR) system, he noted. When Symmetry PACS is implemented, this order leads automatically to the creation of a modality worklist, which automatically provides patient demographics to the modality. The patient image is then captured, transferred and stored automatically by Symmetry PACS. The image can then be accessed easily, along with patient demographics, through the EHR system used by the facility or physician.
Symmetry PACS can be implemented in weeks. Although fast “go live” is possible when the system is preconfigured, Symmetry PACS is designed to be tailored specifically to the needs of individual centers, for example, to allow radiologist over reads. Primary reads through the system may also be possible, as may access to images and reports through the physician or patient portals.
What centers need
Patients walking in to urgent care facilities want fast, efficient, superior care. They also often have problems that would not be prioritized if they visited traditional emergency rooms, concerns such as a dislocated finger or a potentially broken bone or sprain.
Symmetry PACS provides the imaging and workflow tools to meet the needs of urgent care facilities.
Over the past three decades, Greg Freiherr has written about business and technology for publications and websites in medical imaging, as well as consulted for vendors, professional organizations, academia, and financial institutions.
This blog article is a benefit of UCA's Corporate Support Partners (CSP) program. Thank you to Konica Minolta Healthcare, a bronze Level CSP.
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