Medical imaging data sharing and lack of interoperability across PACS originating from different vendors were a challenge for clinicians throughout 2020 – what are the solutions?
- Coronavirus increased remote patient care and more patients are now going to Independent Diagnostic Testing facilities
- This has led to an increase in the need for seamless interoperability between medical imaging data storage systems
- Interoperability is key to identify the specific requirements of individual patients – which can help in personalized patient care
- For better interoperability, medical image storage systems must promote data fluidity and interoperability
- Cloud technology has come to the forefront as one of the best solutions for medical imaging interoperability challenges
The coronavirus experience for clinicians has meant that more patients need to be treated remotely. And when it comes to medical image data sharing, the increase in remote patient care has made clinicians face the lack of interoperability between systems originating from different vendors.
The virus also shifted patient volumes from hospital settings toward independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTF). This tilt toward non-hospital settings has resulted in an increased need for joint working groups between hospitals and IDTFs, and interoperability between their medical imaging data systems has become a major concern.
The transfer of medical imaging data between various concerned parties, such as physicians, radiologists, and patients, can be a complicated process. Interoperability issues and lack of compatibility cause delays in file transfers because they force facilities to fall back on time-consuming manual data sharing methods.
Seamless interoperability and medical image data shareability across systems originating from different vendors are more important now than ever before.
The problems causing interoperability issues
While the industry has made headway in making medical imaging data more shareable across different systems, lack of compatibility between data storage systems from distinct vendors still hampers progress.
Medical image data is stored in a standard digital image format specified as DICOM. The prevalent DICOM management system currently in use in most medical facilities is known as the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS). PACS originating from different vendors add numerous tags to a medical image during the storage process. The varying methods of adding tags can make the medical image file incompatible with PACS from different vendors.
Also, the patient’s past and present medical image data is not stored in a single place that is easily accessible. Only a fragment of patient data may be available at any point of care, which results in siloed information. The availability of isolated chunks of patient information is an obstacle to well-informed diagnoses.
Many organizations are still in the process of identifying and overcoming the hurdles on their way toward complete implementation of standardized medical imaging data storage methods.
Possible solutions for medical imaging interoperability
The transition toward standardized interoperability systems is going on at a very slow pace. Quick adoption of standards by vendors that can enhance interoperability could result in a streamlined data exchange experience that translates to better patient outcomes. There are several initiatives trying to overcome these issues today:
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and Carequality are working in collaboration with vendors for the implementation of standardized PACS. Incorporating interoperability standards in the development of PACS by individual vendors could lead to interoperable medical image storage.
Vendor Neutral Archives
Vendor Neutral Archives (VNAs) are like PACS, as they serve as archives for DICOM-based medical images. However, they have an added advantage because they enable organizations to integrate the storage and viewing of medical images regardless of vendor restrictions.
VNAs can address two problems that most organizations with non-standardized PACS suffer from: The inability of new systems to read files when an organization switches to a new vendor and problems encountered while sharing files over variable PACS within the same organization.
Cloud technology could be a better way
Amidst a robust race toward finding the best possible solution for the industry’s medical image sharing and interoperability woes, cloud technology is coming out as a breakthrough solution. Uploading medical imaging data easily to a cloud platform is a good way to facilitate interoperability and avoid data silos.
Increased interoperability means that clinicians will have access to complete patient information. The information can then be fed into advanced analytics to gain meaningful insights resulting in better patient outcomes and lower cost of care. Better interoperability will also result in much more personalized patient care due to being able to identify specific patient needs.
Cloud technology is not only a cost-friendly solution but also a secure interoperability option. This technology can easily be coupled with advanced functionalities, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to empower clinicians with access to all the medical imaging a diagnosis requires.
STORE XR is a cloud-based medical image storage technology that is currently being offered by DICOM Director. You can contact us to get more information about the technology.