Have you ever been in a situation where you never asked what something was and now it is far too late? Do you feel that way about terms like Deconstructed PACS, Cloud VNA, and Cloud PACS? In this new series, we’re going back to basics. We’ll be highlighting some of the key components of a cloud image management solution and answering many of those who, what, where, and when questions. Let’s start with image exchange through the cloud.
Image exchange refers to the sharing of medical images both inside and outside of healthcare facilities. You may have modalities onsite where you are performing imaging exams and then reviewing them internally or sending to an external radiologist for review. Alternatively, you may not have any imaging modalities onsite and simply act as a receiver of images and reports to make diagnoses and plan surgeries.
Traditionally, images have been exchanged on compact-disks (CDs) and stored on physical hardware, picture archiving and communications systems (PACS). These tools remain a significant barrier to image exchange, with wasted time and resources burning CDs, dealing with errors, uploading images during patient visits, and creating barriers to referrals and second opinions. As hospital networks continue to expand, departmental PACS have become an enormous challenge as they hamper the level of interoperability required.
Enabling access to imaging across departments and facilities is critical to speeding up communication among medical staff and reducing time-to-care delivery. Cloud-based (Cloud) architecture provides a secure framework over the Internet in which providers can share medical imaging in real time. Electronic image sharing capabilities are simplifying the distribution process and are faster, less expensive than virtual private networks (VPNs), and more reliable.
Companies that provide cloud-based image sharing support uploads and transfers from a variety of sources. Using any Internet-connected computer (or even iPad or mobile phone) secure connections can transfer images when receiving or sending patient imaging. Once the image arrives at its destination, a doctor can review the imaging on either a cloud-based or locally installed viewer. The advantage of a cloud-based viewer is that it allows the image to be viewed from most Internet-connected devices, whether a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. We can’t rid of CDs entirely in healthcare yet, but platforms like cloud-based image exchanges get us that much closer to point-and-click access to patient imaging.
Many organizations see cost savings as much as 30-80%+ by consolidating image applications in the cloud. On-premise archive and PACS, image exchange software, CD burning tools, separate disaster recovery products and storage solutions all add up to a big expense. With a cloud vendor, organizations don’t need to purchase expensive hardware and/or infrastructure to get up and running and costs occur on a predictable monthly basis.
Collaboration is the key to success for any physician. 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, and it’s as simple as one click to share with your organization. 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.
For patients, the cloud creates a more connected and integrated experience, like changing the process to minimize how much time patients will spend in the waiting room after they are referred, to maximizing consultation time and satisfaction. It’s about cutting the administration work and reducing how much time patients spend on-hold or filling out redundant paperwork with the referred practice’s front-desk. Great service translates to word of mouth referrals and increases loyalty for both patients and their referring physicians.
St. Luke’s University Health Network is a non-profit, fully integrated, nationally recognized network that provides services at seven hospitals and more than 200 sites throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. With over 61,000 annual patient admissions,1,341 physicians, and 229,000 annual emergency room visits, medical image exchange throughout the wide network is an enormous part of successful data management and patient care at St. Luke’s. Historically, medical images had been provided to patients and referring physicians on CDs – a costly and time-consuming process. Today, with Ambra Health, CDs and DVDs are being phased out and medical image upload time through the cloud takes less than three minutes.
To read more about St. Luke’s, read the case study here.