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FHIR standard integral to Life Image's new image viewing, sharing app

The Geisinger-led Keystone Health Information Exchange launched a cutting-edge imaging app based on the FHIR standard to make it easier to share imaging data across the HIE.

A medical image sharing company developed an app focused on interoperability to make it easier for healthcare organizations to view and share medical imaging data.

Geisinger Health System's Keystone Health Information Exchange (KeyHIE), composed of more than 350 healthcare facilities and serving about 5.8 million patients across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, recently launched the Life Image Viewer app to pull imaging data from across the HIE into one standardized view for KeyHIE institutions. Imaging data can be scattered and siloed in EHRs and picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). The app, developed by Boston-based Life Image, works to pull all of that data together.

The Life Image Viewer app was built using SMART on FHIR, a set of technical standards for integrating apps with EHRs and health information exchanges. The FHIR standard is a data sharing standard federal regulators are encouraging the healthcare industry to adopt in the hopes that it will help address data sharing challenges in healthcare. By adhering to SMART on FHIR, the Life Image Viewer app enables KeyHIE providers to view images from across the health information exchange in the KeyHIE web-based portal.

Aalpen PatelAalpen Patel

Aalpen Patel, M.D., chairman of the department of radiology at Geisinger, said he expects the tool, which launched last month, to facilitate greater interoperability within the KeyHIE.

"There is the Geisinger Health System, which actually has a fully integrated, single EHR and single PACS, but when you talk to the other 349 KeyHIE members, they don't always have that," Patel said. "So how do these members communicate with each other? This is one solution."

How the Viewer app works

Clinicians can view images in KeyHIE's web-based provider portal through the Life Image Viewer app. According to a news release, clinicians can pull up a patient's medical image directly through the Viewer app and examine the image while reading the diagnostic report within the portal.

Matthew MichelaMatthew Michela

Life Image president and CEO Matthew Michela said FHIR enables the app to integrate into web browsers and simplifies the search for data within an EHR. He also said there isn't a separate login for the app because it is embedded within the clinician workflow and portal.

The FHIR standard gives different healthcare organizations without a centralized data store the ability to interact and share data, Michela said. Today, while data shared using the FHIR standard is still low, Michela said he believes the FHIR standard's performance and ease of use has more promise than some of the other data standards. He described FHIR as a "relatively easy and high-performance way to enable a digital transaction."

"To be able to use FHIR within Geisinger and connect into their various data silos, extract and move data in and out of the EHR environment and the PACS environment for imaging, and relay that back to the HIE that connects so many different institutions is really pretty novel," Michela said.

What's the goal?

Michela said the goal is to make it easier for providers and patients to access medical data from across different data stores. The FHIR-enabled app connects the 350 healthcare organizations within the KeyHIE as if all the organizations existed on a single network, he said.

Having FHIR-enabled apps is going to be very important as we try to reduce delays and take better care of our patients.
Aalpen Patel, M.D.Chairman of the radiology department, Geisinger Health

"What this enables is … a structured way [to share data] through the HIE so it makes a much more comprehensive patient record," Michela said.

Patel said the FHIR-enabled app addresses the KeyHIE's need for a structured way to share imaging data with KeyHIE member institutions.

"The overlying theme here is that patient data can never be held hostage for patient care," Patel said. "Because many systems don't have interoperability, patient data is essentially held hostage or patient care is delayed because you can't get your hands on the data … having FHIR-enabled apps is going to be very important as we try to reduce delays and take better care of our patients."

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