Addressing Burnout and Operational Challenges with Cloud PACS Solutions

Originally published by Applied Radiology


Cybersecurity risks and staff burnout continues to be a challenge in the healthcare industry. Healthcare leaders share how cloud-native solutions can help mitigate risk and improve  effiency for radiologists.

Amid concerns over rising costs, growing cybersecurity challenges, and physician burnout, a growing number of healthcare organizations are turning to vendor-managed, cloud-native Software–as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

“The cloud really offers an ability to be able to solve some of those problems,” said Tracy Byers, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise imaging at Change Healthcare.

Designed from the ground up with state-of-the-art technology, the cloud-native Stratus Imaging PACS provides radiologists at independent practices with a secure, seamless, and scalable solution that permits images from multiple hospitals to be read on one platform, anytime, anywhere.

In addition, the application offers rapid migration and zero-downtime automatic updates and upgrades, eliminating the need for them to be installed manually by on-site IT personnel.

“In a cloud-native solution, you can seamlessly deploy upgrades, patches and fixes that could take years in an on-premises environment. We can deploy them with zero downtime while active users are using the system, and they never know,” said Byers, noting the benefits that accompany such capability.

As one example, she cited a 100-radiologist practice using the Google Cloud-based system across two regions, east and west. A glitch was discovered in the viewer that could easily have brought the entire practice to a complete halt.

Instead, the Change Healthcare team routed all radiologists who were actively reading clinical cases to the east zone. Then they deployed the new software in the west, ensured it was working properly, and seamlessly routed all 100 users back to the new version.

“There wasn’t a second of downtime and the viewer problem was solved,” said Byers. “Cloud-native completely changes the game.”

Such capabilities allow practices to focus on productivity, Byers said.

“Across our entire customer base, we can look at every image load for every workstation at every facility 100 percent of the time, 24/7. We can see when there's something wrong with an image load. Our goal is to deliver every image, whether it's a complex tomosynthesis study or a chest X-ray, in under two seconds,” said Byers.

State-of-the-art security

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled an uptick in ransomware attacks, at a cost of more than $9 million for each incident. Cloud PACS solutions protect against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks with SOC 2 Type 2-compliant and HITRUST CSF-certified security.

“Using cloud technology helps keep our patients’ data more secure than if you keep it on-premises,” said Sonia Gupta, MD, chief medical officer of Change Healthcare.

Basing the system in the public cloud environment also provides redundancy, another important aspect of security. “Giving customers the latest and greatest technology in a public cloud environment is the safer bet instead of individual health systems managing a security and infrastructure and relying on underlying systems to be patched and updated in a timely manner,” explained Byers.

Reducing Radiologist Burnout

Dr. Gupta, a practicing radiologist and chief medical officer at Change Healthcare, said the Stratus Imaging PACS can also help reduce radiologist burnout by shortening reading time.

“If I'm reading about 11 patients per hour, I get five hours back over the course of a week to take care of additional patients or double-check my findings and reports,” she said. “Ultimately we're able to improve our care of patients and help alleviate burnout by giving time back to us to make sure we get enough sleep and are fresh to take care of patients.”

At one site, Dr. Gupta said, cloud imaging enabled radiologists to pull up images 14 times faster than they could with an on-premises based system.

Reducing total cost of ownership

The Stratus Imaging solution is built to scale from the smallest individual radiology practices to the largest public and private health systems in the world, in the process saving more than 20% in deployment costs compared to standard on-premises PACS. Byers said this is because cloud storage is elastic, eliminating the chance of overspending for unnecessary image storage space.

 “With the public cloud, you don't have to worry about hardware and storage needs because your cloud service provider in a public cloud is managing that elasticity of storage demand,” she said. “Outsourcing to a cloud-native partner really helps you reduce that IT infrastructure that you spend today, which is a big driver to the cost of ownership.”

Ultimately, Byers believes cloud-native SaaS will move healthcare into a new era of more efficient image management.

“We're excited to be leading the whole industry in this innovation, which is one of the most exciting things to have happened in enterprise imaging,” she said. 

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