I’ve had numerous companies (more than 5) approach me in the last 90 days with a product in development that I’ll call “Image Exchange in the Cloud”.
One of the great challenges we have in healthcare is that radiology/cardiology/GI/pulmonary/Ob-Gyn images are not easily sharable between organizations. Although DICOM is a generally accepted standard, there is not an easy to use health information exchange in most communities to send DICOM data from place to place.
Sure, we could engineer numerous point to point solutions i.e. one organization’s imaging modalities push DICOM images to another organizations image archive. However, such an approach is complex. Who owns the medical record? How long should the image be retained? What security should be used to transmit the image between organizations? How should the patient be uniquely identified if we want to storage all images for a given patient from multiple institutions together?
Here’s the solution that all the companies entering this marketplace are suggesting:
1. A cloud computing offering is made available on the web for image exchange. No IT department has to host data, manage images, or deal with security issues.
2. A DICOM image is sent to the cloud along with a list of email addresses of individuals who can access the image and the length of time they can access it i.e. 30 days
3. The named individuals receive an email along with a URL and password to access their images on the cloud. For example, such individuals could be a consulting radiologist or cardiologist who may be over-reading the study.
4. A universal web-based DICOM viewer enables the authorized individuals to view the image without installing additional software i.e. there is no need to run proprietary workstation software from GE, Siemens, Philips, Agfa, Kodak etc.
5. After the reading is done, the username/password used to access the cloud computing site expires after the duration specified.
This solution is appealing for image sharing because it is low impact on IT departments, requires no local storage, is secure, requires no special software, and is simple to implement.
I look forward to many product offerings for healthcare imaging sharing via the cloud over the next year. That’s cool.
John D. Halamka, MD, MS, is CIO of the CareGroup Health System, CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), CEO of MA-SHARE, Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), and a practicing emergency physician. He blogs regularly at Life as a Healthcare CEO, where this post first appeared.