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Medical image exchange lacks interoperability, expert says

Medical image exchange needs more interoperability for hospital systems to be able to easily share CT scans, MRIs and ultrasound images, according to expert Hamid Tabatabaie.

Vendor neutral archives and picture archiving and communication systems provide hospital systems with advanced storage, retrieval and sharing capabilities for medical image exchange.

But that only goes so far within the confines of their own data networks, medical image exchange expert Hamid Tabatabaie says in this podcast.

Tabatabaie, co-founder and executive vice president of medical imaging IT company Life Image Inc., says large- and medium-sized health systems need technologies to more easily share such imaging modalities as CT scans, MRIs and cardiology video with peer systems.

"In the modern medical environment patients move around," Tabatabaie, a former CEO of imaging firm AMICAS, Inc., which was acquired by VNA vendor Merge Healthcare Incorporated, notes in the podcast. (Merge has since been acquired by IBM's Watson Health unit.)

To transfer medical images, hospitals from different systems now must generally provision special accounts to set up cumbersome exchange systems, Tabatabaie says.

Instead, provider organizations should be using enterprise medical image sharing tools to set up electronic pipelines that are connectable on demand, Tabatabaie says.

Tabatabaie is also a proponent of the cloud for medical image sharing, though some large academic medical centers have been resistant to cloud health IT systems because of security worries and fear of losing control of what they consider proprietary images.

He says the cloud offers scalability, automation and universal accessibility to users. "Anyone can log onto it," he says.

Meanwhile, Tabatabaie, a member of the interoperability group Carequality's steering committee -- charged with advancing the Sequoia Project health data interoperability initiative -- says medical imaging interoperability, while still far from mature, is advancing steadily.

A new Web version of the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standard is coming soon, and progress in EHR interoperability along the lines of ONC's 10-year Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, will also help improve medical image exchange, he said.

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This was last published in January 2016

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