Bone Density Imaging Workflow

In this post, we’ll describe medical imaging workflow as it specifically applies to DXA based bone densitometry.  Radiology departments, imaging centers, and hospitals have implemented efficient processes that maximize the volume of patients, along with revenue, and also minimize errors.

This posting assumes modern technology is in place, such as electronic medical records (EMRs), hospital information systems (HIS), radiology information systems (RIS), DICOM for electronic image transfer, and picture archiving systems (PACS).  For a reporting system, we’ll assume BoneStation is used.  We’ll also assume the EMR, HIS, or RIS provide order entry and results capabilities (where ordering providers view test results).

The following diagram depicts typical workflow, but adapted for DXA based bone densitometry.  The workflow can be thought of as an assembly line, where the patients navigate through the process.  Often times, patient flow may be tracked throughout the day via the EMR/RIS/HIS.

1) An order is placed (scheduled) for a bone density test.  Often times the ordering provider calls the bone density practice to order a test.   The order is entered into the EMR/RIS/HIS.

2) Patient arrives for the exam on the scheduled day.

The receptionist may log into the EMR/RIS/HIS and update a patient’s status to “arrived”.

3) A DXA technologist scans the patient on the bone densitometer, analyzes the scans in the DXA software, and transmits the scans, via DICOM, to BoneStation.  BoneStation extracts all the quantitative data and the images.

If DICOM Modality Worklist (MWL) is available on the DXA, the tech may pull all the patient info (name, DOB, ethnicity, etc) electronically from the EMR/RIS/HIS into the DXA software.  Otherwise the technologist manually enters patient demographics.

The technologist logs on to BoneStation and fills in the patient history questionnaire.  FRAX is built into BoneStation, and the questionnaire is filled out there instead of in the DXA software.  There are advantages to having questionnaires in BoneStation, which are discussed here.

The technologist may update the patient’s status in the EMR to “complete”.

4) A physician, that is specially trained to read DXA scans, logs into BoneStation and reads the bone density scans.  BoneStation automates much of the process of reading scans.  The final output is a bone density report.  This video demonstrates how easily and quickly reading scans is in BoneStation.

5) BoneStation distributes the report to the EMR/RIS/HIS.  BoneStation creates fully formatted reports, with tables, images, and charts.  Click here to see some sample reports.  Depending on the interface between BoneStation and the EMR, only a text report may be available or the fully formatted report in the EMR.

BoneStation supports a variety of ways to distribute reports, including printing and faxing.  This article provides more info about one instance of a BoneStation to Epic interface.

Once the EMR receives the bone density report, the patient’s status is updated to “final”.  This may also trigger events related to billing.  The process for the patient’s scan is now complete.

6) The ordering provider accesses the report in the EMR/RIS/HIS.  Some EMRs may notify the ordering provider that results have been received when the report is received by the EMR/RIS/HIS.

The workflow described here is typical for most hospitals, radiology departments and imaging centers.  There are some unique aspects that are specific to DXA. We will go into more detail regarding DXA in a future posting.

Three Keys to Quality Bone Density Reporting

This posting is the last of a 3-part series about bone density reporting and how BoneStation can make a difference compared to common practices. Part 1 focused on costs reduction and part 2 on time savings.  In this article we discuss three specific areas that BoneStation addresses in regards to quality:

  • The Report – components that comprise a good bone density report
  • Review process – facilitating a sound interpretation
  • Workflow – improving communications between staff

The Report
The International Society for Clinical Densitometry defines the minimum requirements for a bone density report.  Some items that should appear on a report include: patient demographics, BMD values for each site measured, DXA manufacturer/model, and significant change.

BoneStation automates report creation.  Manual data entry is eliminated.  BoneStation extracts all appropriate DXA data and places the data in a report.  In addition, changes in BMD and determination of significant change are automated.  A final bone density assessment is even suggested.

The Review Process
While DXA bone density scan images should not be used for diagnostic purposes, they are instrumental in determining the consistency of serial measurements.  Is the patient positioned properly?  Are the regions of interest (ROIs) consistent with prior scans?  What is the technical quality of the scans?

BoneStation’s review process is designed to highlight key aspects for interpretation.  Prior scans are easily visible. ROIs may be viewed both visually and numerically.  Technical quality of scans must be specified and may also appear on the report.


In most situations, the technologist and reading physicians are in different locations.  Scans are not typically read in real time either.  Improved communications among bone density staff can lead to increased quality.

  • BoneStation allows technologists to pass information to reading physicians via “scan comments”, which are entered on the DXA and appear in BoneStation.
  • BoneStation may be configured to “validate” patient information for consistency.  Is data missing, is patient demographic info consistent, etc.  For example, if a female patient is 62 years old and is designated as pre-menopausal, BoneStation is able to provide a warning that this information may not be valid.
  • When a reanalysis is required, BoneStation facilitates communications between the reading physician and technologist.  The reason for reanalysis is described to the technologist.  The scan is also tracked as awaiting reanalysis – so staff will not lose track of it.

BoneStation is designed specifically for DXA based bone densitometry.  It increases efficiency and quality simultaneously.  Much of the mundane handling of bone density scans is automated. It facilitates a review process designed for bone density, and enables easy communication among bone density staff.

BoneStation has produced more than a half million reports and has proven to be reliable solution for BMD reporting.  Customers such as Mass General Hospital, Swedish Medical Group, Emory and others enjoy higher throughput and quality at lower cost.

Bone Density Report Distribution: the last mile

The physician has interpreted the bone mineral density (BMD) test and generated the report.  Now what?

Obviously it needs to be sent or “distributed” to the interested parties.  In this article we look at this distribution phase, which is sort of the “last mile” in the reporting process.

So what happens to the BMD report once it has been created? Having worked with a variety of hospitals, we know that… it depends! There is no standard answer to that question because it depends on several key factors including:

  • Who will be the final “consumers” of the report?
  • Does the facility have an Electronic Medical Records system (EMR)?  Who has access to the EMR?

Let’s dive a little more into these questions.

The final consumer of the report is typically the ordering physician i.e. the physician who prescribed a bone mineral density test for his/her patient. Usually it is the primary care physician, although other doctors treating the patient may also need to see the report.

Today, most healthcare providers have a functional EMR in place.  It is generally accessible to all physicians, and usually the appropriate place to store bone density reports. (There may be a radiology information system (RIS) and/or a PACS in place too;  often though these systems are available only to radiologists.)

The EMR, however, may not be available to all physicians who need to access test results.  If the ordering doctor is located in the hospital where the BMD test occurs, he/she is then connected to the EMR. But the ordering doctor could be external to that hospital or even located in a remote office with limited access to the EMR.

What is then the best way to distribute exam results, such as bone density reports?

BoneStation offers the flexibility required to handle most situations as explained below. There are three methods available to distribute reports:

  1. Printing – which typically means the report is sent via mail to the consumer
  2. Faxing
  3. Transmission to an EMR –  through a digital interface (typically an HL7 interface)

In addition, BoneStation allows the distribution method to vary for each primary care physician (ie. the consumer).  A couple examples:

  • A physician with access to the EMR may simply receive reports via the EMR
  • A physician with access to the EMR may receive reports via the EMR, fax, and a printed report via mail
  • Physicians with access to the EMR may receive reports via EMR and physicians without access to the EMR may receive faxes

As mentioned above, other doctors than the ordering physician may need to receive the patient’s report.  This is very easy to set up with BoneStation thanks to its distribution list functionality.

For the sake of traceability, the complete history of each report, recipient, distribution method, and distribution date/time is stored in BoneStation. The hospital staff can quickly and easily review that historical data.

BoneStation offers the necessary flexibility for distributing BMD reports.  It support traditional methods, such as print/mail and fax, which are still needed today, in addition to the modern solution of interfacing to Electronic Medical Records systems.

In today’s fragmented healthcare landscape it is important for vendors to offer flexible solutions to accommodate different situations, not only within the medical office or hospital, but also at the interfaces between stakeholders. We have learnt that even in the very specific case of the distribution of BMD reports, there can be many scenarios that need to be resolved, and we will continue to address the constantly evolving landscape.

BoneStation and Epic: The first interface

BoneStation’s first Epic integration occurred recently at a major Massachusetts medical center.  This center has six DXA bone density screening locations which report BMD studies. Bone density tests are read via BoneStation, a browser based application with centralized database, and reports are made available to clinicians via Epic.

The main goals of the integration were to:

  • Increase turn-around time of reports for the clinicians
  • Provide fully formatted reports with tables, images, and graphs
  • Have clinicians notified automatically when reports become available

Before integration, the reports, after being reviewed in BoneStation, needed to be printed and scanned into Epic.  This process greatly delayed the availability of bone density reports.

After integration, bone density reports are available in Epic within seconds of being read.

BoneStation provides richly formatted reports with tables, images, and graphs.  It was desirable to have these available to referring physicians.  The BoneStation Portal, which works in conjunction with the HL7 interface, provides fully formatted reports in Epic.epic with bd report - annotated - blog

Clinicians are also notified when a bone density result arrives for one of their patients.  The HL7 interface triggers this mechanism when a bone density report is finalized in BoneStation and transmitted to Epic.  Clinicians are then notified via their “In Basket”.epic inbox - annotated - blog






The first BoneStation interface to Epic was successful in accomplishing the medical center’s three major objectives, thereby increasing both the effectiveness and efficiency of their bone density testing practices.

Workflow for Bone Density Practices

This posting is the second in a series that discusses cloud based computing and benefits to bone density providers.  For a brief description of The Cloud and cloud based computing, see our earlier posting.

In this article we’ll focus on workflow.  A typical bone density department has several participants involved in processing bone density scans.

  • Technologist – interacts with patient and performs scan and analysis
  • Reviewing Physician – interprets scans and creates report
  • Scheduler – in a multi-DXA center, may need to schedule patient on same DXA as prior exam
  • Office Staff – distributes and/or prints reports

A cloud-based system can make an entire team function more efficiently and smoothly.  Each participant interacts at a different phase in the scanning and reporting process and can be prompted to perform their part of the work at the appropriate time.

Here is a screenshot of the workflow process in BoneStation.  The first column is the patient; second column shows the scans, and the third column is the exam status.  Of course, the tasks can be sorted and filtered by the status.

This screen shot demonstrates work to be done and where each exam is in the process.  Each participant can then focus on their tasks in moving the exam through the process.

  • A technologist will be interested in Exam Pending, which means that BoneStation is awaiting for a scan(s) – in this case a hip scan.  When the hip scan arrives the exam goes to Exam Ready.
  • Exam Ready indicates the exam is ready to be reviewed.
  • Being Reanalyzed means the reviewing physician has requested a reanalysis.
  • Reviewed means a report has been created and it needs to be distributed and/or printed.

Cloud based software lends itself to making teams more productive.    Multiple users have access to the same information and processes.  This is difficult to achieve with desktop software, which typically isolates users from each other.

Advantages of an online Questionnaire for DXA-based bone density reporting

This posting is the first in a series that discusses cloud based computing and benefits to bone density providers.  For a brief description of The Cloud and cloud based computing, see our prior posting.

In this posting, we focus on the questionnaire aspect in the context of DXA-based bone density reporting. We specifically examine the benefits of an online questionnaire which is stored in the cloud.

With the advent of FRAX, patient history questionnaires have taken on new significance.  The FRAX algorithm requires knowledge of the patient’s  risk factors and these are typically collected via a questionnaire in one of different ways.  We will show key advantages offered by The Cloud compared to non-cloud based questionnaire solutions.

Today, DXA machine software includes a questionnaire for use with FRAX.  Both Hologic and GE/Lunar have added this capability.  The presumed workflow is that the DXA technologist fills in the questionnaire at the DXA machine, prior to scanning the patient.  The technologist scans the patient, analyzes the scans, and a FRAX score appears on the DXA machine printout.

In a cloud environment, the questionnaire is filled online and therefore easily accessible through a web browser. It is then stored in the cloud. Let’s look at the advantages of such an enterprise class approach:

  • Technologists and physicians can view and/or modify the questionnaire from anywhere as long as they have access to the Internet through a Web browser.
  • Physicians can easily recall the questionnaire corresponding to a specific report,  since the questionnaire is stored centrally. No need to walk to the DXA machine.
  • Busy bone density providers benefit from an improved operational workflow.  For example, with BoneStation, a questionnaire may be entered before the exam takes place.  The questionnaire is stored in a queue.  When the scan is performed, the questionnaire in the queue is associated with the exam.
  • The questionnaire can be modified without disrupting workflow. In a cloud-based solution that incorporates FRAX, such as BoneStation, there would be no need to change a question on the DXA machine in order to recalculate a FRAX score.
  • New opportunities for Quality Assurance and Research are enabled. This is because questionnaires become easily data-mined, as a result of being part of an enterprise class software.  All questions (and associated answers) are stored centrally.  This may be particularly important in multi-DXA operations.
  • One could even envision the patient accessing his or her questionnaire (for example to review its accuracy).

These benefits to the technologists, physicians, researchers, operations managers and ultimately patients, are characteristic of enterprise class software.  Enterprise class software tie teams together in their work environment, making them more productive through collaboration and workflow.

We probably have not exhausted the potential benefits and opportunities offered by online, cloud-stored questionnaires for bone densitometry.

We thank you for reading this blog, and welcome your suggestions and comments.

The Cloud and Bone Density Reporting

The current trend in software is “The Cloud“.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  What does it mean for bone density providers?  In this posting, we’ll provide an overview of the cloud.  Future postings will assume this very basic understanding of The Cloud.

In short, The Cloud reflects storing of data on the Internet.  Some examples are online banking and email (such as gmail).  In these cases, the checking and savings account info and email may not reside on your PC.  Instead, the data is on a “server” somewhere out on the internet (“The Cloud”).

Access to data is typically provided through an application that is usually a web browser, but not always.  For example, banks typically provide a web based application to log in and manage checking and savings accounts.  Google provides email access through  You may also access gmail through an email client, such as Thunderbird or Outlook.  Mobile access to your email is via a phone app.

In understanding cloud-based computing, it may be useful to contrast it with the old way of doing things – desktop computing.  With desktop applications, one worked in a more isolated manner, on a PC.  Data is stored in files on the PC’s hard drive.  While it is possible to share and collaborate with others, it requires more work than cloud based applications.

In terms of business applications, including bone density practices, cloud based applications are likely to be classified as “enterprise class” applications.  Enterprise class applications are characterized by making entire teams work better and more efficiently.

  • Information is more easily shared among team members
  • A workflow can be instituted which improves team efficiency and reduces errors
  • Data is robust, it is backed up

The next few blog postings will highlight some benefits and touch upon how Cardea Technology‘s BoneStation realizes the benefits of the cloud via as an enterprise class application.