“Medical image management” was once defined as the radiology and cardiology departments saving images onto CDs and USB drives or simply printing and stuffing them into file cabinets. But that definition has become painfully obsolete.
The growing popularity of hospital “bring your own device” or BYOD policies has created a virtual tidal wave of new images being taken in the clinical care setting by specialists in dermatology, emergency room medicine, plastic surgery and other areas. All these practitioners want the ability to retrieve their images quickly and share them with each other, usually on mobile devices. That’s created a vast data storage issue for hospitals that involves brand new kinds of security and HIPAA compliance risks.
Central Control Lacking
Ideally, clinicians should have the kind of fast, role-based access to medical images that the best EHR systems give them to medical data. But individual specialty departments typically they lack the technical know-how to ensure that images are accessible and that clinicians can share them without violating HIPAA privacy rules.
A common result is that physicians at the point of care find it takes too long to search for historical images on their phones or simply can’t locate them at all. It may be impossible to get a consolidated view of the patient at a critical moment.
Where patients are dealing with chronic conditions such as slow healing pressure ulcers, for example, doctors feel ill-equipped to make the best possible decisions without seeing historical images that allow them to evaluate the patient’s progress. And where images are accessible, there are often no controls in place to prevent them from being seen by unauthorized persons, opening the possibility of HIPAA violations that can result in large fines or even criminal liability.
Covering All Formats
A central storage system that can handle both DICOM (the traditional format for radiology images) and non-DICOM images can eliminate these problems. Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Enterprise Archive provides this capability with a vendor neutral archive (VNA) that handles enterprise-wide image data management. Unlike most legacy systems, it allows for easy access to any image, but manages 100% of the hospital’s images in a single, secure location.
Hospitals implement iConnect with a standards-based mobile camera app that clinicians use to send image files directly to the VNA rather than storing them on their devices. That provides security protection if caregivers’ smartphones are lost or used by unauthorized persons. A key added benefit is that, through an improved workflow, images are matched to each patient’s EHR record as they are stored in the central VNA, and they are also tagged to identify which caregiver took them. Storing all images in one place means there’s no more need for physicians to rummage through laptops, USB drives and other devices trying to find last month’s photo of a patient’s condition.
“Enterprise imaging assists in physician collaboration across specialties and facilities and enhances physician and patient satisfaction,” says Louis Lannum, director of enterprise imaging at Cleveland Clinic and a member of the HIMSS-SIIM Enterprise Imaging Joint Workgroup, adding that “The ability to share images across the whole spectrum is a major plus.”
The iConnect Solution
Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Enterprise Archive is the enterprise VNA solution that allows hospitals to manage images for surgical services, dermatology, endoscopy, gastrointestinal and all other -ologies where there is frequent scoping or image capture. It also prepares the hospital to manage the rapid growth in images captured on mobile devices by specialists who did not rely heavily on imaging in the past.
Merge, an IBM company, offers a full range of image management solutions, including:
- iConnect Access, which allows referring providers to access images whenever and wherever needed.
- iConnect Network, for secure sharing of patient data between hospitals, imaging centers and referring providers.
- iConnect Cloud Archive, for cost effective cloud-based storage of medical images and clinical data with built-in backup. A business continuity and disaster recovery solution is also part of the product.