Greg Freiherr has reported on developments in radiology since 1983. He runs the consulting service, The Freiherr Group.
BLOG: How To Deploy Electronic Image Sharing
Talking about the benefits of quick, reliable image sharing among hospitals was how Duke University Health System grew its network of hospitals with this capability from 3 to some 500 sites between 2016 and the end of last year.
The initial outreach efforts underlying this dramatic change were decidedly old school, according to Hope Holiday Harten, administrative manager for radiology at Duke University Health System.
“We started by having phone conversations and emails. We even had outreach breakfasts and social gatherings,” said Harten during an ITN webinar titled Practical Strategies to Solve the Challenge of Image Sharing.
Her first step was to reach out to the three hospitals in the Duke Health System, explaining how electronic image sharing could benefit them. Then she spoke with other North Carolina hospitals and health systems.
“We talked about how we were going to implement PowerShare here at Duke and how that might work for (them),” she said during the ITN webinar.
How PowerShare Fits In
The cloud-based network, developed by Nuance Communications, enables electronic image and report sharing. According to the company, the PowerShare Network allows fast, convenient, cost-effective and secure sharing of medical images and diagnostic reports.
Electronic transmission through the cloud accelerates and streamlines the transfer process. Doing so can reduce the risk that patient images won’t be available and that costly and otherwise unnecessary re-examinations will be needed.
Motivated in Seattle
Seattle Children’s Hospital switched to PowerShare out of necessity. Previously, the hospital, which serves the WAMI (Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) region, had depended on compact disks and site-to-site VPNs (virtual private networks) to transfer patient images. But CDs and VPNs were not up to the task.
Sites were struggling. The final straw was drawn when a facility, affiliated with Seattle Children’s, wanted to set up a VPN connection. Recognizing that the provider might not have the IT infrastructure to facilitate such a set up, Seattle Children’s figured the time was right to switch entirely to PowerShare.
“Leveraging the cloud platform with PowerShare, which we started doing in 2018, really helped navigate some of (the) IT challenges that our external sites were encountering,” said Cindy Price, the hospital’s radiology informatics manager, during the ITN webinar.
The number of sites affiliated with Seattle Children’s that use the cloud-based platform has since ballooned to more than 250, according to Price.
Spurring Growth in the Rockies and Plains
Like Seattle Children’s, HCA Healthcare’s Continental Division had to take action. Heavy reliance on business-to-business VPNs had began to rein in the growth of its telemedicine service lines, according to Brian Phillips, the provider’s imaging systems administrator. To solve what Phillips described as a “bottleneck” caused by VPNs, the division turned to PowerShare.
“About seven years ago we chose Nuance PowerShare to be the hub of our tele-stroke and tele-trauma transfer environment,” he said during the ITN webinar. “Since then we have completely abandoned business-to-business VPN connectivity as a solution.”
Through what Phillips described as “a lot of shoe leather, a lot of meetings,” the division’s PowerShare Network has grown to more than 300 connected facilities throughout the western Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. Its network may be ready to grow again.
The provider, which has been sharing medical images among sites since at least the early 2000s, wants to expand among private physician practices and “large-volume feeders for our environment.” Much of the attention is being focused in and around Denver, Colorado, as well as in rural Kansas, said Phillips, who drives image sharing initiatives across sites in both areas.
“We are looking forward to much more growth and opportunity through the PowerShare Network,” Phillips said.
Editor’s Note: This is the first blog in a four-part series. The next blog will examine what is driving the adoption of electronic image transfer.