Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Taking Medical Image Sharing to the Cloud

Published on the Jan. 19, 2012, DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

When the CT images came through to Children’s Hospital of Boston, the attached physician’s note indicated the patient had an epidural hematoma. The diagnosis was accurate, but doctors had grossly underestimated the severity.

“When our radiologists looked at the images, they decided the epidural hematoma was much larger than the referring physicians thought,” said Richard Robertson, MD, Children’s Hospital’s radiologist-in-chief. “Rather than wasting time admitting the patient to the emergency department, we routed the child directly to the operating room.”

Providing the best care hinged on viewing the scans prior to the patient’s arrival, Robertson said, and he credited cloud image sharing with having that ability. It’s that early access to imaging studies that gives doctors a jump start in treating patients with urgent needs.

As a significant shift in practice, online image transfer eliminates the possibility that an image-containing CD will be lost when patients visit a new provider or clinical setting. If a patient forgets the CD or if it is misplaced, you face having to either postpone service or repeat scans — and that’s expensive. According to a 2008 McKinsey Global Institute report on diagnostic services, duplicated studies accounted for $26.5 billion in unnecessary healthcare costs.

But data exchange via the cloud isn’t a new idea. Financial advisory firm Merrill Lynch estimated in 2008 that cloud computing was already a $95 million industry. As a $56.5 million-subset, cloud-based image sharing is also quickly gaining popularity, and business intelligence firm GlobalData anticipates it will grow by an additional 27 percent before 2018. At the November 2011 RSNA meeting in Chicago, several vendors unveiled cloud-based systems as the technology gains ground in the imaging field.

How It Works

In most ways, the cloud is synonymous with the Internet. However, images sent via a cloud image sharing solution can only be viewed within that system rather than being freely and publicly available.

In most cases, cloud image sharing strategies closely resemble your PACS, said Florent Saint-Chair, the general manager for eMix, the cloud image sharing solution for San Diego-based vendor DR Systems. The cloud platform hovers above the PACS like a membrane, allowing you to both receive outside images and send your images to other providers .

“Cloud image sharing is a very cost-effective solution because it doesn’t require monetary investment in a lot of hardware,” Saint-Clair said of the cloud solution that has about 350 hospital customers. “It’s an excellent way to go for groups or hospitals that don’t want to solely own an image sharing solution.”

Sharing images is a one-step process for hospitals or clinics that are part of the same cloud network. For unaffiliated hospitals, it’s almost as easy, Saint-Clair said. After confirming the identities of each provider, cloud image sharing can proceed over a virtual private network (VPN). As part of this connection, the provider receiving the image uses a password sent via email to log into the cloud server and see the studies.

According to Hamid Tabatabaie, CEO of Massachusetts-based vendor lifeIMAGE, cloud image sharing can also free up space in your PACS. Instead of downloading the image into your system, you can read the image within the cloud sharing platform and delete it when you no longer need it.

Cloud image sharing solutions are really the custodian of images that are shared between providers,” he said. “It’s quickly becoming an accepted way to handle data.”

To read the remainder of the article: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/informatics-pacs/content/article/113619/2020231

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January 23, 2012 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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