While some health care decision makers might have reservations about the cloud, for certain niche applications like radiology image sharing, the cloud beats the alternatives such as CD-ROMs schlepped via sneakernet.
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Cloud services are helping radiologists share images with remote practitioners and patients outside their local networks’ PACS repositories, said Hamid Tabatabaie, CEO of Life Image Inc., which enables secure image delivery over the Web. That's a bit of a jump from 2010, when Tabatabaie said a robust health care cloud could be 10 years away.
Not only can CD-ROMs get lost, scratched or broken, there's no guarantee the receiving provider will be able to view images with the software on his computer. Web-based radiology image sharing eliminates those problems and, further supports any device with a Web browser, such as a tablet PC, iPad or smartphone.
Keith Hentel, M.D., emergency/musculoskeletal radiology chief at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, said his facility uses LifeImage because of its straightforward Web interface. Getting such a cloud service approved by the CEO and CIO wasn't simple -- they had reservations, both philosophical and technical -- and it required a thorough vetting process by the IT department's security team. Eventually, the facility determined the pros outweighed the potential cons, and signed up.
"Getting information out there in the cloud…is the next step," Hentel said. "The way that I look at it, that patient's images aren't really my practice's images. [They are] that patient's images. It's going to do that patient a lot more good if other people have access to it. It's what has to happen as time evolves."
Moving forward, the key to any cloud service's success -- besides security -- is the ability to track and audit who accessed the data and when, both Hentel and Tabatabaie said. Not only will it help prove HIPAA compliance, but it will also build user confidence on both the patient and health care provider sides of the equation.