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Written by PACSMule Administrator   
Saturday, 27 August 2011 17:59

 

EACH day, referring physicians encounter enormous tasks serving patients and making accurate diagnoses. Regardless of location, they want to be on the go and demand easy access to online patients’ images and exams. Being mobile whilst carrying out these tasks is key to a physician’s productivity and efficiency.

The cornerstone of such efficiency is technology that can provide broad access to patient reports and images, enhancing communications among physicians and patients, while protecting patient data.

Carestream Health’s innovative Vue Motion zero-footprint, Web-based enterprise viewer enables convenient on-demand access to imaging data and patient information by clinicians anytime, anywhere.

“This viewer’s support of mobile devices such as Apple iPads and tablet PCs enable referring physicians to view images they have ordered and sharing them with patients, to make faster decisions for their patients and hence improving overall workflow. For the radiologists, the platform offers access to images while they are away from their base for hours or being asked for a second opinion,” said Cristine Kao, Carestream Health’s Worldwide marketing manager.

“The viewer launches via a Web-browser that can be Windows- or Macintosh-based computers, or mobile devices including laptop PCs, smart phones and tablets. Unlike a dedicated client or app, the viewer does not require a download. Thus, it can be easily deployed to provide high performance and rapid access to images.”

The core of every radiology report is the image, yet referring physicians and other clinicians typically see only words. These reports are dictated with conclusions drawn by radiologists. Some radiology information systems support the embedding of images, but even in such cases, referring physicians see only selected views and seldom at a resolution high enough to see the details they want.

Alternatively, clinicians may receive digital images stored on portable media, such as CDs. Providing digital images this way represents an improvement over films, whose delivery outside the facility raises the prospect of loss.

Like films, CDs must be physically delivered yet, unlike films, offer no guarantee that referring physicians will be able to see the images due to the multitude of viewing software applications, file formats, hardware configurations, security settings, and types of media in use today.

Non compliance with the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard or corresponding IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) profile are also issues.

These problems may delay the delivery of appropriate clinical or surgical care and could potentially have a detrimental effect on patient outcomes.

Overcoming these challenges by providing easy access to patient images may cut down on the ordering of duplicate and, therefore, unnecessary imaging exams. This promises to help contain rising healthcare costs and minimise radiation exposure to patients.

This potential was documented in a study of patients transferred from one hospital emergency department to another. When a system for uploading CD images was implemented at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the rate of subsequent imaging for transferred emergency patients fell by 17%.

The Brigham researchers found that importing images into the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) allowed efficient review by multiple members of the healthcare team, even when those members were at different locations. When attempts to import images failed because a CD was damaged, lost or in a non-standard image format, replacement imaging studies were often performed, driving up healthcare costs, delaying patient care, and often exposing patients to additional ionising radiation and intravenous contrast material, according to the researchers.

If the results from the Brigham study were extrapolated to the 2.2 million patient transfers each year between American emergency departments, successfully importing images to PACS would result in 484,000 fewer CT scans, they reported.

Electronic access to reports and images promises the same benefits as those provided by CDs but with increased efficiency and greater likelihood of the images being readable. This promises to benefit the patient, whose therapy or intervention might begin more quickly or whose concerns might be alleviated sooner. Early efforts toward this goal involved the use of wireless local area networking, utilising viewing software that interfaced far-flung workstations with PACS.

One such network implemented at the turn of this century at Jikei University Hospital in Tokyo connected emergency and radiology departments with future plans calling for extension to all hospital wards, ICUs, ORs, and outpatient departments.

The Japanese researchers later explored this concept further by examining the integration into this network of personal digital assistants, the forerunners of today’s tablet PCs and smart phones. Radiological images were displayed on these PDAs using Web browsers. The Japanese researchers concluded that such wireless technology could efficiently handle heavy loads of lossless DICOM image data.

“A zero footprint viewer provides the missing link between radiologists, referring physicians and patients. Accessing critical patient imaging data on a mobile device may be useful in a variety of medical settings, notably in rural medical settings, where primary care physicians may need to consult with specialists such as neurologists,” said Kao.

“In every day practice at facilities with electronic medical records, such a viewer, embedded in the EMR system, can provide comprehensive access to images in the context of other patient data. It can do so easily and with no costs in time or money that would otherwise accompany the installation of interfaces between PACS and other information systems, potentially helping to drive the adoption of EMR systems by increasing their utility and clinical value.”

Eventually, patients will be on the receiving end of the benefits of computer technology as medical practitioners can enhance customer service as a result of more accurate and insightful diagnosis and reduced, if not eliminate, time and location constraints.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 September 2011 07:15