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What Are Most HIEs Missing? Medical Imaging

It is estimated that out of roughly 300 HIEs that exist today, less than 2 percent support medical images. The majority of data being exchanged is text-based such as demographics, prescriptions, allergies, and payer information. However, 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 HIEs. Last week, we hosted a webinar for SHIEC (Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative), to discuss why and how image-enablement for HIEs is critical. 

Here at Ambra Health we have seen several major trends make waves across healthcare and impact HIEs.  You are, of course, seeing the impact of recent healthcare reform rules which require providers to be more efficient and eliminate duplicate imaging studies that put patients at risk for overexposure. Easy access to priors not only helps to eliminate duplicate imaging but is often a prerequisite in various diagnostic scenarios. Patients themselves are also demanding more access to their health records and imaging. A survey we conducted of over 1000 healthcare consumers found that many were quite “cloud savvy” and interested in accessing not only medical records but also medical images. 

However,  lack of interoperability and integration with other systems like EHRs and HIEs makes it very to difficult to produce a holistic patient health record that is complete with imaging. CDs & legacy PACS are still in play, and given the rate of consolidation across healthcare networks, most facilities these days still find themselves grappling with PACS from different vendors which have a way of locking information inside them creating imaging silos.

Ultimately, this means offering HIE participants a communal framework to exchange image data that is more efficient than doing it on their own or using traditional transfer methods like CDs or VPNs.

One approach that facilities are taking to address some of those imaging strategy concerns is to leverage the cloud to create a holistic patient health record. During the webinar, Account Executive Mark Grenga gave a live demo to highlight how Ambra Health can embed into your workflow, share with providers outside of your network, and finally, query and retrieve studies.

Cloud-based image exchange services are the main driver behind image enabling HIEs as they enable the ability to electronically view and send medical imaging. You might ask – Why Cloud? With cloud-based solutions, system upgrades, maintenance, and storage are standard and managed by the vendors. Better yet, by moving to a modern cloud-based infrastructure, organizations gain improved backup, availability, and overall business continuity.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of augmenting a network cloud archive or HIE workflow is what it allows you to then DO with your centralized data. Once freed from siloed legacy systems, data becomes a strategic asset rather than a liability or hurdle to improving upon effective care. HIE’s utilizing the cloud to incorporate imaging can leverage that asset to really drive innovation — deep learning, image analysis automation, and more that all come with a heavy reliance on making imaging data access easy to get to.

With Ambra, a link to a patient’s medical images can be listed alongside other types of information like payer information, medical history, allergies, and more directly within the HIE’s existing portal. The link, supported by Ambra’s open-API infrastructure, directly opens Ambra’s viewer with the patient’s images in a single-sign-on environment.  Once logged in to the HIE platform, users are not required to log in to separate accounts, install separate softwares, or open separate applications in order to view the studies.

Additionally, providers from outside of your HIE may need to be able to add studies to your network. With a cloud platform like Ambra, you can instantly exchange medical imaging through a secure web-based link to streamline one-off interactions.  The upload process requires no installs for potential end users and is a simple 3-click process.

As the only real operating HIE network in Florida, HIE Networks has been in the business of improving the way healthcare organizations share medical records and correspondence between healthcare offices for years. However, the network was not image-enabled, causing physicians at local practices to fax requests for imaging to imaging centers and hospitals. These images, then burned onto CDs, were delivered by a courier service or picked-up by the patient. The process could take days, wasting time, and frustrating physicians and patients alike. Today, HIE Networks has partnered with Ambra Health to image-enable the network – leading to half a million patient images now available instantaneously through the web. To learn about HIE Networks and Ambra Health’s workflow, click here.

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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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