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Merge Healthcare: Enterprise Imaging & Interoperability

July 20, 2011
by root
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Interoperability. Meaningful Use. Accountable Care. Watchwords for today's health IT strategy and initiatives that populate the agendas of most CDs.

As healthcare organizations across the country execute plans to secure stimulus funds, most are not including diagnostic images. This is hard to believe, especially since medical images are a staple in the diagnostic process, and from a patient care perspective, it's often impossible to track a patient's disease trajectory without access to historical images.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 700 million imaging procedures were performed in 2008 in the US

  • 60% of patient diagnoses are supported by diagnostic imaging

  • Diagnostic images represent more than of stored content in an EHR

Many images are stored in formats that are incompatible across various providers creating redundancy and unnecessary expense and exposure to radiation. Each year, duplicate tests account for billions of dollars of waste.

Even more concerning, patients are exposed to unnecessary levels of radiation. A single CTscan of the pelvis can be the equivalent of 750 chest X-rays and therefore needs to be ordered judiciously.

If diagnostic images were routinely available for exchange, resources could be more effectively utilized and redundant tests could be reduced, thus minimizing waste and reducing unnecessary radiation exposure.

“We can't have an effective electronic health information system if we can't move images.”

David Blumenthal, MD

Former National Coordinatorfor Health Information Technology

Despite challenges, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Technology exists today to facilitate cost-effective image exchange within the enterprise and across organizations.

When evaluating interoperability and image exchange solutions, organizations should consider the following:

  • Is it modular, thus allowing me to optimize money already spent?

  • Does it support exchange and rendering of images from one vendor's system to another?

  • Is the archive truly vendor “neutral”?

  • Does it provide connectivity to users who are globally dispersed?

Healthcare Informatics 2011 August;28(8):33-35

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