News | April 26, 2013

Hospitals See Need for Streamlined Management of Medical Images

New survey show concerns about how hospitals maintain medical images

April 26, 2013 — According to a new survey by Etiam, hospitals see a significant need for an organized system to manage the sizable flow of medical images many receive from beyond the enterprise. Hospitals also expressed concern about the security of the cloud, which increasingly plays a role in cross-enterprise access to this patient data. 

In the survey, 91 percent of all respondents indicated they would benefit from an automated system that transmits outside images to the point-of-care and selectively integrates them into a picture archive and communications system (PACS) for ongoing use. Almost 50 percent were not satisfied with the IT system or protocols their hospitals currently use to handle these images, if the facility had any organized system at all. When sending images to other institutions, 47 percent of respondents indicated significant security concerns with cloud-based image sharing.

The survey, which involved physicians and IT professionals, focused on issues related to the communication of images sent to and from hospitals of a variety of sizes, from community to university settings, and the internal management of this patient data once it was received. It found that outside images were generally handled by radiology departments and integrated into PACS using many manual processes such as patient information reconciliation. If not sent to PACS, images were typically managed in a variety of informal ways by the department directly involved.  In a few cases, hospitals stored images in short-term digital or file room areas separate from their long-term storage. Several respondents also noted that images were frequently lost and exams had to be redone. 

“Respondents who indicated that their hospital had such protocols or systems typically relied on the radiology PACS and file room libraries to manage these,” said Eric Le Bihan, president of Etiam. “They indicated a major concern with storage costs for images that often only require short-term retention for patients who did not go on to be admitted to the hospital. However, extremely few managed these images in a separate archive or manual filing area where they could be easily eliminated if no longer needed.”

The survey found for emergency department (ED) cases, about 20 percent of images were hand carried or sent using electronic transfer systems directly to physicians involved. The other images were cycled through radiology and made accessible via PACS, potentially delaying treatment. For non-emergency cases, about 90 percent were entered into the hospital PACS, while about 10 percent were managed through the departments treating the patient.

Asked to cite which use cases for outside images were important at their facilities, 62 percent said ED/trauma/stroke, 62 percent indicated surgery consults and 42 percent cited oncology consults. Etiam provides the only solution that manages outside images in all of these workflows.

Etiam-Connect caters to the communications and storage of both internal and external images from departments beyond radiology.  With the system, all medical images entering a facility on CD and DVD can be directly transferred from the clinical department involved to the enterprise PACS or other system accessible by all clinicians, with complete management and automation of patient information reconciliation. The system also handles non-standard digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) such as iSite, Amicas and ScImage images.

If desired, the institution can decide to import into the PACS only select studies and to temporarily store others on a Web-accessible local Etiam server, where they can be accessed by all clinicians as needed. This enables broad image access without storing images of patients being seen on a consultative basis only. Etiam-Connect also provides a URL for uploading of DICOM images and associated documents for electronic sharing of information from beyond the enterprise. 

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