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Looking for Imaging's Missing Link

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, May 17, 2011

Research proves it: Patients and caregivers alike "universally hate" CDs as a method of transferring image files. That's according to Jeffrey Carr, MD, part of a research team at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, that's investigating alternative image-sharing technologies.

To be fair, those are just initial survey results, Carr says. But it sure makes sense.

Usually patients themselves have to schlep CDs from one provider to another—often carrying them to their primary care provider after a trip to the ED. And when the discs arrive, there's no guarantee the receiving organization will be able to open or read them.

For their part, staffers and clinicians waste a lot of time struggling to open and read CD images from incompatible systems. One orthopedic surgeon told the researchers it takes 20 to 30 minutes to load outside CDs into his system. That adds up to a lot of wasted time.

And when clinicians don't have reliable access to patients' images, they may have to repeat tests, delaying diagnosis, adding to the cost of care, and causing unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.

Backed by millions in federal grant money, Wake Forest, the Radiological Society of North America, and other groups are investigating alternatives to low-tech image-sharing tools that are fast, easy, reliable and interoperable—the missing link, if you will, in so many healthcare IT solutions.

The RSNA project relies on Internet-based personal health record accounts from commercial providers to give patients access to their imaging data. Wake Forest uses a token system and walk-up kiosks with card readers at participating organizations—much like the system at an airport check-in kiosk or an ATM.

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