The advantages of digital image sharing can no longer be ignored
- Medical images distributed via CD are expensive to produce and lack proper security protocols, among other issues
- Patients are clamoring for online access, and 87% say they want digital access to their radiology images
- CDs can cost up to $15 each to produce, and some facilities spend up to $100,000 a year just on couriers to get them where they need to go
- Digital image sharing is important to prevent redundant imaging, which is costly and increases radiation exposure for the patient
- With its instant availability, security, and ability to enhance collaboration between medical professionals, digital image sharing is better, faster, and cheaper
- Digital image sharing will soon become law
The way medical images are shared between healthcare organizations has become a hot topic as radiology tech leaders and even patients are urging facilities to “ditch the disk” and embrace digital sharing solutions. Digital image sharing offers 24/7 access from any device wherever the provider or patient happens to be.
Compact disks (CDs) are cumbersome, expensive for institutions to produce, and most computers these days don’t even have an optical drive. In addition, those concerned about the environment point to the fact that a CD sent to a landfill takes one million years to disintegrate.
Privacy is also an issue. Unless the images are protected by a password or encrypted, they are not secure and can be seen by anyone who has the CD. Encrypted disks have their own issues, and sharing a CD with another provider requires burning the images onto another CD, which only exacerbates privacy problems. CDs also increase the potential of a HIPAA violation.
There are many reasons to stop sharing imaging files on CD, including those magic words: “better, faster, cheaper.” Let’s explore all the reasons why your healthcare organization should join the movement to digital image file sharing with a picture archiving and communications system (PACS).
Burning CDs is expensive.
To give just one example, Yale New Haven Health in Connecticut spent almost $550,000 just on CDs and DVDs. That doesn’t include labor costs, shipping, or delivery expenses. When you add up all the costs, hospitals alone spend up to $15 per CD, and some spend up to $100,000 annually just on couriers.
The move to cloud-based healthcare data sharing just makes sense. With the combination of proper authorization and validation, as well as fast access to electronic images, digital patient information is available to providers when they need it.
Patients want better access
Fully 81% of people want increased access to health information, both for themselves and their providers. It’s significant that an even higher number – 87% – want greater access to radiology images and reports.
Many patients undergoing a medical imaging procedure receive a copy, and most want to share images with family and other medical professionals. However, when patients are responsible for physically managing their images on CDs or other formats, images are at risk of damage, concerns increase about data access and security, and providers who can’t open CD-based images have to repeat the procedure, which brings us to our next reason.
A reduction in redundant imaging
Most patients see more than one provider, and to make an accurate diagnosis, imaging is often needed by more than one of them. Without digital file sharing, these records are difficult to get quickly. This results in wasted provider time and a delay in diagnosis and treatment.
This can result in additional imaging, which has a number of impacts: Increased radiation exposure for the patient, the creation of avoidable costs, and the fact that, if studies are not accessible, informed clinical decisions cannot be made.
Medical imaging is a costly part of patient care. Diagnostic imaging comprises 10% of yearly healthcare costs. Research shows that nearly 9% of this is either unnecessary or redundant. Further research demonstrates that a digital sharing platform can reduce redundancy, which is good for both the facility and the patient.
Improved patient care
Lack of access to outside imaging in trauma transfers leads to significant treatment delays — up to 25 minutes per one study – which adversely affects patient outcomes and increases costs.
Trauma cases aside, sharing imaging digitally via a PACS speeds patient diagnoses in every care setting. For example, when it comes to patient transfers, electronic image sharing facilitates remote consultations for potential transfer patients. This means the receiving team can provide guidance and do advanced planning. It also prevents unnecessary transfers – one facility had a 40% reduction in unnecessary transfers.
Prevention of unnecessary transfers is a significant factor in patient care. A national study of Medicare beneficiaries shows a longer length of stay and a lower chance of discharge home. Transfers were also associated with 30-day mortality with a cardiac or gastrointestinal diagnosis.
Images that can immediately be shared with all medical providers, as well as patients, means diagnosis and treatment decisions can be made more quickly and effectively, and it gives multidisciplinary medical professionals the chance to connect.
Because images can be viewed anytime, anywhere, a cloud-based sharing solution that is always accessible on any device serves as a connectivity tool for radiologists and clinicians who need to collaborate from different locations. Radiologists who are stuck in the reading room and physicians and surgeons who are spending time with patients get a consistent experience regardless of where they might be.
Digital image and record sharing will soon become law
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT have proposals on the table to push for increased availability and accessibility of data for patients. The Patient Access Proposal mandates that medical facilities must offer patients access to their records securely online.
Many provisions will take effect in 2022, including one that will allow patients to download images and records onto their smartphones.
Ditch the disk with DICOM Director
Cloud-based PACS means secure sharing on any device anywhere across the globe, scalable storage, and enterprise-level archiving, all with a user-friendly interface.