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Making Medical Imaging Transparent

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 3, 2012

Mendelson is also the principal investigator for the RSNA Image Share network, which offers patients Internet access to their medical imaging through a secure portal. The pilot project has enrolled patients at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, the University of California–San Francisco, and University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and the University of Chicago Medical Center will soon enroll patients.

The Image Share network all but eliminates the need for patients or attending medical professionals to travel to their physicians' offices to request or retrieve compact discs containing their medical imaging—which is the cumbersome and standard method of delivery at most healthcare facilities right now.

"The patients who have embraced Image Share are very positive about the expediency of using the Internet to replace a whole set of manual processes," Mendelson says. "This is not instantaneous gratification, but it is relatively quick and convenient. It cuts through a lot of manual processes." 

Nagging doubts
Mendelson says there is growing support for improving patient access to all medical records, including imaging. However, he and other healthcare leaders concede that issues remain to be solved.

A paper about a survey released in December for the OpenNotes medical record pilot project that was initiated by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that patients were overwhelmingly interested in accessing their doctors' notes, but physicians were less receptive.

There also are concerns about utilization. Will facilitating patient access to their medical records increase their demand for more services and procedures, including costly CT scans, MRIs, and other imaging that may not otherwise be warranted?

"That is the question of the hour, and it remains to be seen," Walker says. "A lot of times we underestimate how resourceful patients are. Certainly knowledge is power in other arenas, so you could argue it either way. I can't deny the possibility but I hope the preponderance of evidence will be that people use this information well."

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