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Back to Cloud Basics: Image-Enabling the EHR

Today’s Back to Cloud Basics blog post brings together two core concepts – Electronic health records (EHR) and diagnostic imaging. EHRs are used to store, organize, and secure patient medical history. Diagnostic imaging, or more simply, medical images, are critical to diagnosis and treatment for many illnesses. Considering the role EHRs and imaging play in the care continuum you might be surprised to learn that the majority of EHR installations don’t include an integration between the two. In fact, many medical image archives and PACS are entirely siloed from the EHR.

Why Doesn’t the EHR like Diagnostic Imaging?

Electronic health records (EHRs) can provide the full medical history of an individual from lab reports, to blood tests, to past surgeries, and much more. Not only are EHRs a convenient source of information but also a potentially life-saving one.

Diagram of Electronic Health Record (EHR)

One of the goals of Meaningful Use is the utilization of certified EHR technology to improve quality, safety, and efficiency, increased engagement of patients and families, and improved care coordination. However, most EHRs only display text-based radiology reports and not the actual diagnostic images themselves. Text-based records are only telling part of a patient’s story. The sharing of medical imaging data provides a wealth of untapped potential in EHRs.

So, What Does an EHR Integration Look Like?

Depending on your EHR and image vendors the experience can vary. With cloud-based EHRs like Modernizing Medicine or DrChrono and a cloud-based PACS like the one provided by Ambra Health, you can directly embed a patient’s complete medical image history within that patient’s record, enabling that imaging to be viewed at the press of a mouse click. View patient imaging all from within the same screen using an FDA 510k cleared viewer.

Image-enabled EHR | EHR Integrations

Even older, non-web-based EHRs can be image-enabled. In these examples, a link to a patient’s medical images can be listed alongside other types of information like payer information and medical history.  The link, typically supported by single-sign-on (SSO) technology, eliminates extra steps your medical staff would have to take to view the imaging. Simply clicking on the link takes medical staff to the patient’s complete imaging history and a medical image viewer. 

Why is it Beneficial to Image Enable the EHR?

Most facilities are likely dealing with 10X the data from 10 years ago and the reason is likely the spiraling use of medical images. Care providers are increasingly reliant on the availability of imaging. It is used by numerous disciplines to aid in various stages of the care delivery process such as diagnosis, screening, treatment planning, monitoring, documentation, etc. Having easy access to patient imaging within the EHR is critical. 

Anytime, Anywhere Access

Consolidating imaging within the EHR eliminates the need to login to separate systems and toggle between browsers. For example, with Ambra Health, a seamless login authenticates users and launches a feature rich, zero-footprint medical image viewer.

Greater Opportunities for Collaboration

Collaboration is the key to success for any physician and image-enabling the EHR leads to simplified sharing.  Web-based image sharing portals can share imaging through a series of secure web-links. You can send a branded version of the imaging portal directly to referring physicians who can share imaging with your organization in return. Your facility becomes a destination on their PACS (picture archiving system), and it’s really a one-click share over to you. Opening the lines of communication and collaboration can provide a whole new world of referrals and open the door to revenue-driving programs, like a second opinion platform.

Improved Patient Care

Take your patient experience further and maximize patient exam time by image-enabling your EHR’s patient portal. Ambra easily embeds within the portal to provide an intuitive experience for patients to upload or download their images directly. Ambra can even then notify administration or physicians once imaging has been uploaded and route the imaging as required to fast-track the next step in the patient care continuum.

Benefits example of image-enabling the EHR.

Can I Have an Example?

CareWell Streamlines Patient Journey & Reduces Risk with Ambra
CareWell Urgent Care focused on reimagining their systems in the cloud to support their comprehensive approach to urgent care, which includes on-site labs and x-ray capabilities. Growing from four locations to over fifteen in just four years throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island, they selected Ambra to streamline image management, reduce risk, and eliminate barriers between their physicians, radiologists, and patients. Carewell has focused on streamlining every aspect of the patient journey including image-enabling their EHR, athenahealth.  The result has cut time and risk associated with CD uploads from the and allowed images to be viewed from anywhere.

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About Catherine Slotnick

Catherine Slotnick is a passionate healthcare marketer with a deep interest in the latest & greatest in the Health IT space. As Ambra Health's marketing manager, Catherine primarily focuses on creating and sharing thought leadership content in the radiology and informatics space. Catherine graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology & Art History. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking and petting dogs that aren't hers.

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