Cloud-based Medical Image Exchange May Be Efficient, Outcome-Driven Alternative to "Sneakernet," Report Shows
Newton, Massachusetts—According to a study released at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference, physicians believe that open-access image-sharing technology can improve patient outcomes. The study, sponsored by lifeIMAGE, the nation's leading provider of solutions for universal e-sharing of medical images, outlines how advanced cloud-based technologies are a new imperative in today's fast-paced health environment and offers recommendations for overcoming technology-adoption challenges.
"Imaging technology is critical for screening, diagnosing and managing diseases, but until recently, many physicians and healthcare organizations have not been able to exchange important images across systems and consult with colleagues," said Hamid Tabatabaie, co-founder and CEO of lifeIMAGE. "Better real-time collaboration in both inpatient and outpatient settings is becoming increasingly important as our healthcare system puts a laser focus on improving patient outcomes while also reducing inefficiencies and healthcare costs."
In the new study, 91 percent of physician respondents said they believed open-access image-sharing technology benefits patients. Cloud-based platforms are an efficient alternative to current "sneakernet" approaches to image exchange, in which patients are often asked to transport CDs of their medical images to different providers. This inefficient process introduces the potential for loss or incompatibility of data and can lead to duplicate testing and unnecessary exposure to radiation.
Key study recommendations
Although some healthcare organizations have systems in place for sharing images electronically within their own networks, these systems rarely provide access to images taken outside their institutions. The new study outlined several pilot programs that use open-access cloud-based systems to avoid that access barrier, and offered seven specific implementation recommendations:
Begin now: Cloud computing has reached a level of maturity and should now be considered a robust addition to an organization's IT architecture.
Look closely: Not all clouds are created equal; those with multiple imaging viewers are recommended.
Seek standards: To ease implementation, multiple options for embedding the system into existing processes can be helpful.
Be open: Vendors should have a stated policy of supporting an open platform, with published APIs (application programming interfaces).
Go big: Plan ahead for future needs by seeking out scalable platforms.
Ensure continuity: Look for guarantees on uptime performance (the "five nines" rule is a good metric).
Be safe, be secure: Protect the privacy and security of patient data through encryption of all data, whether shared through messaging or stored on servers.
Meeting the growing demand
The Chilmark study predicted that healthcare organizations will increasingly turn to open, cloud-based image-sharing systems as reimbursement models continue to depend on patient outcomes, driving a renewed focus on collaboration across varied healthcare settings.
"In today's fast-paced, results-oriented health environment, timely access to medical information is a requirement, and lifeIMAGE has helped advance the technology to make this possible," Tabatabaie said. "Our goal is to maximize connectivity among physicians, hospitals and patients to ultimately improve care."
lifeIMAGE is a network that allows physicians to connect and exchange imaging information with existing colleagues, as well as with specialists they may never have met. For example, using lifeIMAGE, a primary-care physician who needs to connect with an expert oncologist for a patient consult can use the lifeIMAGE eReferral directory to find and make an appropriate connection. Once the contacted physician approves the connection, the physicians then can share and view images throughout the patient-care process - instead of relying on patients to shuttle images back and forth on CDs.
lifeIMAGE provides a broad set of solutions for universal e-sharing of diagnostic imaging information. These products connect hospitals, radiology groups and physicians to their patients everywhere. lifeIMAGE makes it possible to securely deliver or receive patient imaging information wherever needed from wherever the information originates.
The goal of the lifeIMAGE platform is to help avoid duplicate exams and eliminate unnecessary patient exposure to excessive radiation. In an era of concerns about rising healthcare costs, lifeIMAGE is investing in a platform that helps advance patient care, while reducing $10 billion to $15 billion of unnecessary costs. lifeIMAGE was named one of the most innovative technologies by The Wall Street Journal as part of its international 2010 Technology Innovation Awards. lifeIMAGE solutions are deployed at nation's leading healthcare institutions and academic medical centers.