This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was originally featured on Inside Digital Health on May 15, 2019.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a computer today that contains an optical disk drive. In fact, Best Buy announced in 2018 that it would no longer sell CDs. Most of us have no need for CDs in our daily lives, and many of us have children who have never even experienced using a disk. However, there is one last hold out for the CD: medical imaging. It’s astonishing to think that the visual patient health record is still managed on this dinosaur of a technology.
The cost healthcare organizations incur from CDs are enormous; they are expensive to burn, ship and send by courier service. According to one healthcare executive, hospitals spend as much as $15 per CD. Some health systems spend upwards of $100,000 per year in courier costs alone.
CDs are easily forgotten on the kitchen table at home, lost in a move or scratched by a curious child or pet. Asking an elderly patient, a patient with a chronic or serious medical condition or a caregiver to manage CDs seems like an unnecessary additional step in an already complex workload. Many facilities today still require that patients complete a form, call ahead and take considerable time out of their day to drive and pick up a physical CD containing medical imaging records. Not only is this a nuisance but potentially impossible for someone with a serious physical condition or injury.
Even once the patient possesses a CD, their provider may be unable to upload the data to their computer due to the variation in proprietary systems by CD burning vendors. This technological delay often impedes already dwindling appointment times and may even cause the need for an additional visit or worse, redundant medical imaging.
These delays can cause enormous dissatisfaction among patients, who act more like healthcare consumers more than ever before. According to a survey we conducted of more than 1,000 patients, few can easily access radiology reports and imaging, with only 17% being able to easily access or share medical imaging online. However, our study found that 80% of respondents said they would like to have access to their imaging alongside their test results. Particularly, millennial patients expect to have data on demand and are seeking providers that offer these services.
Patient dissatisfaction isn’t the only risk of CD usage; they can impact treatment and care, too. Did you know that in cases of trauma up to 50% of patients have at least one CT before they are transferred? Oftentimes, the receiving facility can’t see patient imaging ahead of their arrival, wasting time as they reassess the case and upload imaging off the CD when the patient arrives. This delay can lead up to 25 minutes of time wasted, an alarming number in the world of trauma.
If a reduction in costs and improved patient care don’t motivate healthcare organizations, then the law might. A proposal issued by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology states that patients should be the actors and not “acted upon” when it comes to their medical records. According to Elise Sweeney Anthony, Director of Office of Policy for the ONC, “If a patient requests their record, and it’s not given to them electronically and for free, that’s information blocking.”
Leading facilities are taking action to remove the CD from their workflows once and for all.
The benefits of #DitchingTheDisk are enormous. One leading pediatric hospital, for example, was receiving thousands of outside imaging studies per year. CD burning costs ran in line with industry averages at around $10 per CD leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual costs. Today, by using a digital image strategy, the facility is able to send and receive images automatically through the web. The move to this interoperable image exchange strategy has helped to reduce redundant imaging and additional anesthesia for duplicate MRI procedures among their pediatric population.
The benefits of #DitchtheDisk are clear. It’s time for healthcare organizations to seek digital enterprise-level image management tools to free their data from silos, reduce costs and improve the patient experience.