Rochester RHIO reaping dividends from image sharing

When the Rochester RHIO was established in 2006 to improve the quality and efficiency of care in the greater Rochester, NY, area, one of the requirements from a local matching grant was to enable diagnostic-image sharing among healthcare providers.

Since July 2009, the nonprofit, community-run organization has offered this service, first receiving images from a few and then expanding to include 11 participating radiology practices.

[See also: Rochester RHIO automates patient image sharing]

In 2013, Rochester RHIO expects to complete studies it has been conducting on changes in clinical care based on HIE access to images.

"By next year, we should have more granular details of the clinical variations that happen with access to images," said Executive Director Ted Kremer. The Rochester RHIO's studies will contribute to current literature on the value of HIEs and imaging use.

To date, the Rochester RHIO has conducted a modeling exercise to understand administrative savings.

[See also: Rochester RHIO makes strides in uptake]

"We're looking at in excess of a million dollars a year in administrative savings outside of reduction in duplicative imaging and radiation exposure to patients," he said. "We're just now getting the kind of volumes needed to study these aspects."

Through eHealth Technologies’ eHealth Imaging Solutions, the Rochester RHIO receives approximately 100,000 radiology results and fields about 9,500 queries each month. Of these radiology queries, 9 percent include viewing an image. 

Saving lives, offering greater convenience

Although these studies are not yet completed and released, several anecdotal stories have provided powerful testaments to the value of accessing medical images.

"We've had some life-saving stories early on, which were really encouraging," Kremer said, "including the discovery and triage of a brain bleed when the treating clinician queried and accessed an imaging study for a patient who presented to a local emergency department."

Besides delivering clinical value, image access offers greater convenience for both providers and patients. Patients no longer have to ask for a CD of their images before going to their next appointment. It is not uncommon for patients to show up without their images, which then places the burden on specialists to retrieve them.