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Imaging’s seismic shift to the cloud

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  By Joe Moock,  September 26, 2011

As the industry continues to move to the cloud, it's imperative to take the necessary steps for making sure providers leverage an integrated system for storing EHR and medical images.

From Apple's iCloud to Microsoft's Azure, it seems like everyone is gravitating toward the cloud. In healthcare, it's no different. Advancements in technology are making it easier than ever to streamline healthcare processes to facilitate better care. Cloud computing in medical imaging, for example, allows healthcare providers to store, retrieve and share x-rays, MRIs, CT scans and PET scans with greater ease. With a digital infrastructure that offers greater scalability and better efficiency at a lower cost, providers are able to extend these benefits directly to patients in the form of more timely care, less radiation exposure and easier access to information. As working in the cloud becomes the modus operandi in the years ahead, distributing images via CD-ROM is likely to become a thing of the past — and it's about time.

In fact, the entire industry is on the verge of experiencing a seismic shift that's likely to shake up the healthcare landscape. Whether it's driven through federal incentive programs, an abundance of new solutions on the market or the realization that technology is a key driver for creating a more efficient healthcare system, the benefits associated with cloud computing are at the forefront of the national discussion.

Naturally, the key to widespread acceptance starts with an understanding that cloud solutions eliminate many traditional barriers associated with large-scale IT initiatives. In the past, organizations needed to assess the value of making large capital investments to procure the requisite equipment, allocate resources to handle the implementation process, hire experts to consult the management team and train internal staff to maintain the system. In other words, it was an expensive and time-consuming process that often required an overhaul of an organization's operating paradigm along with its business strategy.

Today, the decision to go to the cloud is easy. With HIPPA-compliant cloud solutions appearing on the market, healthcare organizations are able to work with electronic health records (EHRs) and medical images more effectively — all without the huge expenditures traditionally associated with implementing and maintaining an in-house solution. In teleradiology, for example, the ability to store, retrieve and share medical images through a secure cloud-based system allows providers to:

  1. Store exams in a centralized location;
  2. Share exams with colleagues;
  3. Provide easy access to patients;
  4. View patient records online before an appointment;
  5. Request second opinions with the click of a button; and
  6. Manage information more effectively.

With a variety of cloud-based solutions designed for medical imaging, however, it's important for healthcare providers to take a step back to learn from previous mistakes before adopting a particular solution. More than 15 years ago, picture archiving and computing systems (PACS) began to flood the marketplace to replace antiquated hard-copy processes and systems. While this technology was certainly necessary at the time, the adoption of disparate systems created a fragmented radiology community, ultimately adding new inefficiencies to an already overburdened healthcare system. This type of fragmentation is problematic in the healthcare industry because providers and patients need access to electronic health information at all times — regardless of the point of entry. 

As more cloud-based products begin to cast a familiar shadow over the medical community, how does one select a solution that's built for a modern healthcare system? Enter RadConnect. RadConnect is a nationwide cloud solution that's designed to store every medical image in the United States through a single platform — and it's free. Developed by StatRad (and available in the first quarter of 2012), RadConnect is a highly secure solution that uses standardized processes to ensure providers and patients are able to store and access radiology records from a single source. "By developing a free system that's accessible to everyone, we're taking a proactive approach for facilitating better care," says Dr. Vishal Verma, medical director at StatRad.

So what's the catch? After all, not everyone offers a free product that's designed to change the entire healthcare system. Interestingly, there's no catch. RadConnect is designed to make sure all healthcare images are stored through a single system. By offering a product for free, StatRad is able to introduce a solution that's in alignment with its core mission — delivering solutions that facilitate better care. Whenever competing products are available on the market at different price points, there's a strong likelihood that different providers will adopt different solutions. As we've seen with PACS, this type of approach leads to a fragmented healthcare system. RadConnect, on the other hand, removes the traditional barriers that often impede real progress for delivering high-quality care on a national scale.

With a standardized solution that's available to everyone with the appropriate security parameters, there's an opportunity to leverage cloud technology in a manner that benefits the healthcare system as a whole. As the industry continues to move to the cloud, it's imperative to take the necessary steps for making sure providers leverage an integrated system for storing EHR and medical images. Even in today's competitive marketplace, there's still room for cooperation — particularly when there's an opportunity to shake up the entire healthcare industry and improve the quality of care across the country.

About the author

Joe Moock is the CEO at StatRad. For more information on StatRad solutions: http://www.StatRad.com.

 


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