Telemedicine Image Collaboration Enhances Patient Safety

March 30, 2013
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CT Scan width=Computed tomographic (CT) scans are acknowledged as some of the most effective means of early detection for certain forms of illness. In recent years, however, there has been an increased amount of attention paid to the radiation risks inherent in CT scans.

CT Scan width=Computed tomographic (CT) scans are acknowledged as some of the most effective means of early detection for certain forms of illness. In recent years, however, there has been an increased amount of attention paid to the radiation risks inherent in CT scans. Medical research indicates that most patients who require CT scans are not aware of the risk of radiation exposure inherent in the tests. According to a study by Dr. Patrick O’Malley, MD, one of the largest obstacles to providing patients with accurate information regarding the risks of imaging scans boils down to the awareness of the real risks. A study published JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that up to one in three imaging tests in the U.S. are ordered in situations when the expected benefits do not sufficiently exceed the risks, adding that clinicians are not well informed about the risks of medical imaging.

Fortunately, the ongoing digital revolution that has changed so much of society has not neglected medical technology. One major innovation that is saving time and protecting patients is the use of cloud-based data sharing, in particular, for storing medical images.

Medical imaging in the cloud is a leading innovation in the industry that makes the assessment and treatment of medical conditions more efficient and effective. “By storing data in HIPAA compliant servers, medical imaging in the cloud makes it easier, and secure, for different medical facilities to share records,” says Dr. Phil Johnson, Department Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Summit Healthcare. As a result, patients can avoid exposure to potentially harmful radiation due to repeated CT scans. “Furthermore,” continues Johnson, “in emergency situations, it’s far more efficient to use a recently captured medical image than it is to take a new one.” In addition to the health benefits, facilities that make use of medical imaging in the cloud can also save themselves and their patients substantial amounts of money. It is estimated that US medical facilities spend roughly 30 billion dollars per year on redundant medical imaging. In many instances, patients have been responsible for storing their own imaging files on CD or even as paper print-outs. Needless to say, this solution obviously is less than ideal, as the physical form of a compact disc makes it prone to damage or loss. The obvious limitations of image print-outs have made them easily the most inefficient method of data transfer.

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Johnson continues on the importance of harnessing this technology: “To put the patient first, treat every patient as you would a close relative, and put the team in place to make that happen. Utilizing technology in the cloud is having a dramatic impact in practice,” he says, “because telemedicine can link anyone with anyone, this new paradigm can provide much better care by saving real dollars, and saving real lives.”  He adds that “to practice in an old paradigm where a consultant at another institution cannot view the digital images with HIPAA compliance puts both the patient and the practitioner at risk…I practice in an ER where, with HIPAA compliance, I can show digital images of my patients to any consultant in the world that has access to the internet. Within a few minutes of the CT being done on my patient showing they have a true life threatening emergency I tell my patient that the neurosurgeon 200 miles from us has already viewed their images and recommends an immediate transfer for life saving surgery.”  The patient and family look at me with comfort in their eyes knowing they are in good hands that will put them first every time. Dr. Phil Johnson states that after 5 years of using this technology, “I save many lives a year that would not be saved in the old paradigm without this technology and I personally have seen this prevent 3-10 unnecessary transfers a year costing the patient over 40,000 thousand dollars a transfer.” He concludes by saying “I would not consider working in an ER without this technology.”