A picture is worth a thousand words, the old saying goes. Today, HealthInfoNet, Maine's statewide health information exchange, is launching a pilot that will put both images and words at the fingertips of healthcare providers – the better to make the right decisions for their patients.
Working with Dell, HealthInfoNet will create what its officials say is the nation’s first statewide medical image archive.
"This is totally a cloud-based offering, which will be a subscription model, where we will charge on a per-study basis to put the studies in the archive, and have the ability to pass forward those images to anywhere they are needed – have the ability to provide business continuity and even disaster recovery if needed," explains Jerry Edson, former CIO at Maine Medical Center and now a HealthInfoNet consultant.
HealthInfoNet already provides image reports, but with the new archiving system it will be able to offer up the images themselves. It’s "something providers have asked for and told us will better support their treatment decision-making," says Todd Rogow, director of information technology at HealthInfoNet.
The pilot will last through the summer, "to be sure you know that everybody can touch it, feel it. They can be confident that it’s working the way that it needs to work," says Edson. "In the fall, we will move from the initial participants of the pilot to the statewide rollout."
In addition to leveraging the HIE, the service prepares Maine’s providers for sharing images through the NwHIN Direct and Connect systems, Rogow notes. It also supports the development of accountable care organizations and other shared-risk models.
"As the concept of ACO starts to come into place," says Rogow, "a service like this fits very well and is very needed."
An estimated 1.8 million medical images (X-rays, mammograms, CT scans, MRIs etc.) are generated in Maine each year, totaling more than 45 terabytes of data. The organizations participating in the pilot generate 1.4 million of those images.
Today, the images are stored in a number of electronic archives at separate locations and mostly shared between non-affiliated providers by copying the images to CDs.
By consolidating the images into a single archive, HealthInfoNet estimates that Maine’s providers stand to save $6 million over seven years through reduced storage and transport costs.