What’s Old is New Again: The Resurgence of the RIS

By Doug Rufer, BSBA, RT(R)


What’s old is new again as the resurgence of the RIS is making a comeback. RIS stands for Radiology Information System, once a critical information management solution for busy radiology departments in the 1990s. Then, around 2010 organizations began to adopt electronic health record systems (EHRs) and stand-alone RIS solutions began to be phased out. EHRs had their own RIS capabilities as part of their core offering. This enticed CIOs to consolidate their IT systems with a single vendor (instead of best-of-breed) causing the trend to shift away from best-of-breed solutions.

The downside was EHR based RIS solutions were typically less robust than best-of-breed solutions. Organizations lost useful functionality and optimized workflows. This required re-engineering of established workflows to accommodate the new EHR based RIS. 

Being involved with RIS throughout my career, I’ve watched this up and down trend take place.  However, I now find it interesting that the market growth predictions for RIS was on a decline years ago but is now enjoying a resurgence. This started in the early 2020s making best-of-breed RIS solutions popular again.  Organizations need better ways to cope with staff shortages and new technology is clashing with outdated workflows, providing an opportunity for RIS to make a comeback. Today, there are multiple vendors that provide best-of-breed RIS solutions offering enhanced workflow tools that can positively impact radiology departments everywhere.

What is a RIS Anyway?

A RIS is a software suite of networked workflow and administrative tools used to manage the entire patient journey within a radiology department or imaging practice.  A RIS manages everything from patient scheduling, order management, patient tracking, technologist documentation, file management (in the old days, patient jackets with hard copy films were stored and moved to various storage locations based on an age out methodology), inventory tracking, exam statuses, radiology reporting, report generation, and report distribution.  Some manage the billing process or front-end eligibility checking, along with other unique workflows, like patient engagement solutions, peer review, and follow-up management, as a few examples.  Today’s RIS no longer need to manage where films are stored, as PACS (Picture Archival Communication Systems) has taken that under control since most images are now digital. 

There are multiple vendors that provide RIS solutions, and they all have their own unique benefits.  RIS solutions are provided as on-premises or cloud-based solutions, and some are focused on departmental workflows while others bring in workflows to manage the complexities of teleradiology. A while back, there was a lot of debate around how a RIS should work with a PACS.  A RIS could be implemented as a stand-alone solution and interfaced with a PACS, or they could be a single database integrated RIS/PACS solution. This created the debate of which was better, PACS driven workflow or RIS driven workflow. Realistically, the best choice really comes down to the requirements of the organization and the workflows they are taking advantage of.

Key Benefits of a Modern RIS

Consider your RIS as a radiology specific patient record and management system.  Not only will this database system track and maintain your patient histories, but you will also use it to manage your department.  One of the key reasons most imaging organizations opt for a RIS over an EHR is the specific workflows designed within the RIS to improve workflow efficiencies and patient throughput.  Streamlining tasks is a key benefit that RIS solutions provide.  When patients check in at your front desk, alerts (offered as notifications or color changes in technologist worklists) inform the tech that their next patient is here, filling out paperwork, and when they are ready for their exam. This eliminates back-and-forth calls from the front desk to notify the technologist the patient is ready for their exam.  

Another workflow ability is to inject a QC process once images are acquired and sent from the modality to the PACS.  Technologists can keep radiologists from reading a study until it is completed (such as adding 3D reconstruction images, for example) and all images are available.  They can update the status at that time, which places the study with all available images on the radiologist worklist.

A RIS offers the benefit of improving data integrity throughout the workflow process.  In hospital-based workflows, patient data will flow from the EHR into the RIS via HL7.  From the RIS, the modality will query the RIS for scheduled or ordered studies and update the modality worklist with patient data.  This electronic movement of data prevents data duplication or mis keying of information due to repetitive typing.

Improved efficiency helps improve revenue and profitability.  Today’s RIS solutions offer robust data analytics and reporting capabilities so you can monitor departmental performance month over month and year over year.  Having insight to your workflow operations, throughput capabilities, exam counts, top referrers, and other key metrics, provides insight to your operations so proper adjustments can be made to keep your department running at peak performance.  Understanding who your top referring physicians are allows you to focus additional marketing efforts to those physicians to maintain or increase referrals while offering them tools that provide a competitive advantage for using your imaging services.

Finally, improving efficiency, better information tracking, enhanced patient documentation, and information sharing provide the keys to improving patient care.  When radiologists have all the information they need on a patient’s condition (including new information that may have been captured during their pre-exam interview process), the accuracy of their interpretation and recommendations they provide of their findings can be shared with the patient’s referring physician, and this can definitely enhance patient care in the long run.

Future Trend Predictions

As the imaging market continues to evolve, there are significant opportunities for RIS systems to evolve and continue to provide value in the patient care process.  A few areas where there are opportunities for RIS solutions to provide innovations include artificial intelligence, patient engagement, follow-up workflows, and real-time analytics.

Artificial Intelligence

Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are making significant headway in providing advanced tools to improve the diagnostic interpretation process.  But AI and ML can also add enhanced workflow capabilities to the RIS and streamline processes by removing human intervention (speeding processes and time to diagnosis or improve report turn-around times).

For example, AI in a RIS could detect if there was a discrepancy in the patient’s history vs. the exam that was ordered and alert a radiologist to review the case prior to performing an inappropriate or wrong study.  AI early in the scheduling process could help balance patient scheduling and open timeslots based on denials or patients that tend to be frequent no-shows, allowing for departments to better manage their schedule to keep revenue flowing.

Patient Engagement

Patient engagement solutions give more control to the patient over their care.  Providing tools to allow self-scheduling can be simplified to show only timeslots available yet keep the complexities of the scheduling process behind the scenes. Once the exam is complete, providing easy tools to download or share images, access reports, request appointments, and send timely reminders with exam prep instructions are all ways a RIS can improve the patient experience.

Follow-up Workflow Automations

Not following through on exams that require follow-up is a large revenue loss for many organizations.  AI could determine from the radiology report that a follow-up procedure is necessary.  The AI could prompt the referring physician to create the order for the follow-up procedure.  The AI could help close the loop and ensure that the referring physician has indeed sent the order for the follow-up, the insurance company was notified for the follow-up, and the patient engagement system was notified to ping the patient to schedule the exam. Timely on-going reminders can help ensure they show up for the study once the exam date approaches.

Closing the loop on exam follow-up can bring a higher revenue stream to most organizations since procedure follow-up often doesn’t have a well-defined closed loop workflow.

Real-Time Analytics

Imagine your RIS being able to analyze everything in your department and making real-time adjustments to the schedule while notifying the patients in the waiting room that their study will be moved up or slightly back due to backups in the department.  AI could analyze the inbound reading workflow for radiologists and determine if the number of available radiologists can keep up with the current workload while maintaining service level requirements that may be set by various physician or organizational contracts.  Auto adjusting the worklists while offloading excess studies to a contracted teleradiology firm, can keep patients, referring physicians, and department managers happy since timely report turn-around would continue regardless of workload. 

AI can provide updates to managers as data is captured real time and inform them of automated changes being made to improve the workflow of the department, all while focusing on efficiency.


Radiology Information Systems were once written off as a dying technology that would be replaced by the EHR.  Time has proven that incorrect as a resurgence in the technology and the value it brings in improving efficiency and workflow is well understood.

Today’s RIS solutions offer more options to improve workflows, better department insights and analytics, and new capabilities and automations from artificial intelligence that can improve efficiency and optimize patient care.  If you are looking for a next generation Radiology Information System for your organization, be sure to check out InsiteOne’s modern cloud native RIS and the workflow optimization capabilities it provides our customers every day.

8 Benefits to Implement an Enterprise Imaging Solution


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is just one of the 8 benefits to implement an enterprise imaging solution in your organization today. Yet without a solid foundation to manage your algorithms, you may find clinicians will not use the algorithms if they do not integrate into their daily workflow. 

Most healthcare organizations lag in modernizing their technology. This opens risks to cyberattacks, limited interoperability, and increases overall costs. An even worse outcome is negatively affecting patient care. Talk to most CIOs and cybersecurity along with digitization strategies are priorities and will continue for the foreseeable future. 

Enterprise Imaging (EI) solutions are one of the best investments hospitals can implement to digitize their organization.  Yet for maximum value, all digital imaging needs to be integrated across the enterprise.   This requires eliminating siloed solutions, establishing new workflows, and providing extensive user training.  With all imaging departments using your enterprise solution, data availability increases, as does improved cross team collaboration.

In this month’s blog, we narrow the list down to the top 8 benefits to implement an enterprise imaging solution, plus share a few tips to help you get started!

Benefit #1: Improved Efficiency

Imagine you are a physician who needs access to a patient’s clinical record and want to see images from radiology, cardiology, and pathology. How would you accomplish this today? If there is no single source, you would be forced to hunt down that data. This can impact the picture you need to develop an optimal care pathway for your patient. Hunting for images, collaborating with colleagues, and wasting time looking for data decreases the effectiveness of care providers.    

InsiteOne Tip: Enterprise Imaging increases efficiency significantly.  Once all clinical images are integrated within the patient’s medical record, physicians can see everything in context.  That means no more hunting for images or data when your EHR and enterprise imaging platform are integrated. Collaboration improves since your clinical care team can now be on the same page.   Choosing the right enterprise viewer is also necessary. Make sure it supports all image and video formats you need, as well as provides the key tools for physician productivity.  The viewer should be diagnostic, feature rich, and expand beyond DICOM images (such as digital pathology, ophthalmology, etc.).  Finally, integrate your enterprise viewer into your EHR to provide a unified, automated mechanism for your care team to view the complete patient and clinical record in context from within your EHR.

Benefit #2: Cost Reduction

Organizations that have siloed solutions for radiology, cardiology, ophthalmology, dental imaging, wound care, digital pathology, surgical video, and endoscopy, are operating under increased costs.  With separate interfaces, storage, integrations, and software support to manage, you need an army to support them.

InsiteOne Tip: Enterprise Imaging can reduce your overall operating costs. As a single source for interfaces, storage management, and vendor support, you benefit from a streamlined infrastructure that saves money in the long-term. For maximum benefit, be sure to select a vendor that has workflow tools to support the various “ologies” you will migrate to your enterprise imaging platform.  This ensures that necessary processes can still be included at the departmental level.  Also, look for vendors that provide cloud storage as part of their infrastructure. This can provide built in options for disaster recovery, allowing your care team to continue accessing critical patient data should your internal systems become off-line.  Finally, a single EI solution may be far more cost effective in terms of personnel required to support them, often requiring fewer resources than those required by many departmental solutions.

Benefit #3: Scalability

Adding storage to departmental solutions can be costly.  When storage technology changes, older systems may require costly upgrades or face end-of-life scenarios if they can’t scale to use new technology.

InsiteOne Tip: Managing multiple storage technologies is another key benefit to enterprise imaging solutions.  This provides your organization with the best approach on managing various storage tiers (fast, slow, cloud, etc.). Adding new storage segments is quite easy and for those that support cloud storage, scaling can be instantaneous and unlimited.  Some solutions even provide capabilities to copy data from one storage location to another, making the need for migrating that data a thing of the past when new storage technology becomes available.

Benefit #4: Interoperability

Without strong interoperability standards, integrating to other downstream IT solutions becomes challenging, making your investment a dead-end.  Fortunately, most modern IT systems provide better integration and interoperability capabilities than solutions of the past, and that is a must for every organization.  

InsiteOne Tip: Data interoperability is critical when investing in a new IT solution for your organization. With most systems having an open architecture, as new integration profiles or industry standards become available, adopting new standards tends to be easier.  DICOM, FHIR, HL7, and API integrations are all standards your EI platform must support. This provides you with the greatest flexibility when integrating images and other clinical data into your downstream systems.

Data standardization is another very important factor to consider as part of your EI solution.  Standardized data provides far more value for analysis and improves interoperability with other systems than non-standardized data.  Investing the time upfront to ensure your data conforms to industry standards, not proprietary formats, will make system integrations, data analysis, and population health initiatives easier and more reliable in the future.

Benefit #5: Security and Compliance

Cybercrime is on the rise in healthcare and organizations that have ignored system modernization are at an increased risk for cyberattacks.  Educating employees about how to thwart common cyber-threats (like phishing attempts), is just as critical as system modernization. System modernization can help decrease the likelihood of success when perpetrators do gain entry, and this can help prevent major damage to your organization.

InsiteOne Tip: There are many stories of cyberattacks in healthcare systems where the vulnerability came from outdated technology that was still in use.  One of the many benefits an EI solution provides is incorporating modern security features that comply with industry specific regulations, such as HIPAA.  Solutions that provide cloud storage infrastructure may even have higher security capabilities than on-premises solutions since cloud providers are continually updating security features to stay ahead of cybercriminals.

Benefit #6: Enhanced Patient Experience

A bad patient experience can cause patient leakage (they will not return). Even worse, they will not recommend your organization to their family and friends.  In a competitive healthcare landscape, improving the patient’s experience can keep them coming back.

InsiteOne Tip: Information exchange continues to be disjointed and is a major challenge as patients move from one provider to another. Every visit requires the patient to provide information they already provided. This creates significant duplication and can become a source of irritation and stress. 

Centralized access to all patient medical and clinical information (including all images) can often speed up diagnosis. This in turn improves the care the patient is receiving.  Improved collaboration capabilities between providers speeds recovery for many patients, leading to a better overall patient experience.  Enterprise imaging provides a key benefit by managing and maintaining the complete clinical record, then integrates those images in context to the patient’s medical record. This can lead to a faster diagnosis time and better collaboration between medical colleagues.

Benefit #7: Data Analytics

Decentralized data makes analyzing the data difficult, time consuming, and oftentimes incomplete.   Also, not having all the data available leads to inaccurate analysis and insights. 

InsiteOne Tip: Centralized data storage, strong data governance, and imaging standards collectively play a part in ensuring better consistency, accuracy, and easier analysis of your data. Your EI solution becomes the foundation for future data analysis, making data analytics easier and more accurate.  Standardized and centralized data improves population health initiatives as well. This can even open the doors to data monetization, often providing new revenue streams.

Benefit #8: Simplified Management for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

There are over 500 AI algorithms approved for use by the FDA.  Implementing and managing all those point solutions can be next to impossible for even the most skilled organizations.  Yet even a few AI point solutions can be challenging to maintain when implemented and managed outside of traditional imaging workflow.

InsiteOne Tip: Once again, data centralization is a key benefit an EI solution provides. Centralizing all your imaging data allows you to better manage your AI initiatives within the context of your clinical workflows.  In fact, some EI solutions provide a plug-in framework to make this process easier to manage. Providing a standardized, centralized platform improves your implementation and adoption of AI within your organization.  IT can also provide easy access to historical data for continuous AI algorithm training.  Integrating AI into the clinical workflows established by your EI team may also provide better ROIs from those AI algorithms. In some instances, you may be able to use certain AI algorithms in other specialties and having a EI solution can make this possible and easier to roll out.


We have only touched the surface with our 8 benefits to implement an enterprise imaging solution in this month’s blog.  Understanding your current and future needs, along with careful vendor selection will ensure your enterprise imaging platform suits you for many years to come.  The most important step to take in modernizing your enterprise is beginning your journey to enterprise imaging, and vendors like InsiteOne can help provide you with the platform you need to improve your patient’s experience and ultimately better outcomes.