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Health IT vendors look to cloud for imaging offerings

Improved data compression and lower costs are two reasons more healthcare providers are weighing cloud deployment in their facilities.

As cloud storage has been commoditized, its popularity with consumers and professionals has increased. The spike in cloud deployment has also made data accessible from all devices, at any time. This trend has encouraged many health IT vendors to use cloud services to make health information more accessible to patients and clinicians. Medical imaging has also become a key area of focus for cloud storage providers. Cloud providers realize their products can deliver important healthcare data to patients and physicians.

In October 2014, Box Inc., a major cloud storage provider, announced its acquisition of MedXT, a radiology software and cloud service provider. This transaction highlights the interest cloud service providers have in offering more healthcare-specific functions to their customers. In the past, patients have complained about the struggles they've faced when trying to access their EHRs. In some cases, patients had to view different Web portals to access information stored by different providers. Additionally, the information they found was not always complete and often excluded medical imaging.

While meaningful use has driven several organizations to adopt certified EHRs that offer patients the ability to have access to that information via portals or through digital media, it is not until meaningful use stage 2 that medical imaging results are required to be made available to patients. The final rule states, "Imaging results consisting of the image itself and any explanation or other accompanying information are accessible through certified EHR technology."

In the past few years, the Radiological Society of North America conference has welcomed vendors offering cloud services that can host, manage and share medical imaging content with physicians and patients. These products haven't been widely adopted due to the high costs stemming from the bandwidth needed to transfer and store such data. Cloud storage costs have been on the decline in recent years, and improved compression capabilities have encouraged sellers of radiology information systems, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and other imaging systems to introduce cloud services into their product lines.

As a cloud storage provider, Box helped manage consumers and enterprise users' data in its cloud. Following its purchase of MedXT, Box is focused on a new goal: giving patients and providers access to medical imaging from their mobile devices.

In the future, more medical imaging equipment, such as MRI machines, X-rays and other medical imaging devices, will send data directly to a cloud-based PACS. More radiologists will adopt cloud services into their workflows, use them to review their studies, and share and collaborate with other professionals on patient cases. Cloud vendors should be careful when taking on storage of healthcare data because it is protected under HIPAA laws.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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