Back to Cloud Basics: Medical Image Viewers

Time for part 2 in our cloud image management 101 series. Last week, we defined medical image exchange, discussed the siloed nature of traditional image management strategies, and highlighted the benefits the cloud can offer to facilities.  Today’s focus is on cloud-based medical image viewers.

What is a Cloud-based Medical Image Viewer?

A viewer enables doctors and technicians to view medical images. Ordinarily, a viewer is installed locally on a computer or as an app on a tablet/mobile phone. A cloud-based viewer enables doctors and technicians to access that same imaging without having to install any software.

Although the definition is simple, the implications and process are not. We’ve heard of physicians printing out studies so they could look at them at home or even driving back to their office in traffic.  In today’s world, you can access everything instantly, your email, your photos, and even your friend’s photos from anywhere, but accessing DICOM and non-DICOM images is still stuck in the dark ages. From a technology standpoint, older locally installed viewers simply lack the innovation to address today’s challenges.

Web-based image viewer

Where Does the Cloud Come in?

In recent years, the industry has made steps forward with the advent of cloud-based viewers. To confuse matters slightly cloud-based viewers are also referred to as web-based viewers, browser-based viewers, or even HTML5 zero-footprint viewers!

HTML5 is the web industry’s standard programming language for websites. In every case, what that means is that from any internet connected computer/tablet/mobile phone with a browser like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Edge, Google’s Chrome, or Apple’s Safari you can access a patient’s medical imaging history.

With an HTML5 FDA 510(k) cleared DICOM viewer, you can log in, perform measurements, make annotations, compare images and even collaborate, from anywhere you have an internet connection and a web browser. A universal viewer that is associated with a VNA (vendor neutral archive) can also extend the archive’s functionality to provide seamless access to images enterprise-wide.

Universal DICOM viewer

Why is a Universal Viewer Beneficial?

A universal viewer displays images from a variety of sources and provides access beyond the department where imaging is created and stored. The most obvious benefit of deploying a universal viewer is to provide physicians with immediate access to imaging when and where it is needed. Real-time image viewing is particularly critical in emergency situations. For example, instead of rushing into the office to view an image, medical personnel can make a preliminary diagnosis right from home. In larger institutions, mobile viewers allow multiple doctors to view the same studies simultaneously, which is especially useful for collaboration across networks.

Cloud-based medical image viewer

The convenience and efficiency of mobilizing data across departments play a critical role in enhancing communication, realizing faster diagnoses, and reducing time-to-care delivery. In addition, a universal viewer can be used to image enable an EHR/EMR, providing access to imaging from with the patient’s record without having to log into multiple systems.

A mobile viewer, like Ambra’s, can also be used as an interactive tool when meeting with patients. Tablets facilitate a collaborative approach based on visuals and can enable care providers to explain procedures in a more comprehensive manner.

Can I Have an Example?

New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH) is the premier regional provider for orthopedic surgery and the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and disorders. NEBH operates on a unique model, as over 95% of the physicians associated with the hospital are private practice physicians. As a result, NEBH deals with a large number of disparate and siloed systems.

NEBH’s initial solution included a program where physicians associated with the hospital who wanted to view images at Baptist had been given a full-fledged PACS station either on or off-site. Managing this approach was both highly expensive and highly inefficient as few practices had IT help and physicians were often juggling multiple hats.

As NEBH began looking for alternative solutions, it was clear that a cloud and zero-footprint system was becoming a necessity. It was critical that a physician could view imaging outside of hospital firewalls and that patients could upload CDs at home, speeding up time-to-care delivery. Today, imaging is available through the entire network, including on mobile devices and any computer with a browser. NEBH estimates that the reduction in disparate systems has saved them over $214,000 thus far, and will continue to do so as the system becomes additionally refined.

Medical Imaging & the Enterprise

Click here to read more about New England Baptist Hospital.

Catherine Slotnick, Marketing Manager

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 Director of Marketing, 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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