Austrian doctor empowers patients with Web-based PACS

March 7, 2005
Greg Freiherr

When Dr. Peter Kullnig offered patients at his imaging center in Graz, Austria access to their images, his intent was to protect their privacy. With private logins to the center’s Web-based PACS, patients controlled access to their records. They could open those records to their own physicians and doctors to whom they were referred.

When Dr. Peter Kullnig offered patients at his imaging center in Graz, Austria access to their images, his intent was to protect their privacy. With private logins to the center's Web-based PACS, patients controlled access to their records. They could open those records to their own physicians and doctors to whom they were referred.

"We developed this idea to make sure different doctors who deal with the patients have access to their images and radiology reports," Kullnig said. "Immediately, after we launched this for the patients, we realized from the log files that up to three-quarters of patients accessed their own images at least once."

The Graz-based imaging center was the first European installation for Web-PACS pioneer RealTimeImage. Speaking at the company's booth on the exhibit floor of the ECR, Kullnig described the effect of iPACS. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP

The patients appreciate the access, and so do doctors who need access to this information. But empowering patients has led to unexpected consequences.

"Some referring physicians don't like it, because they don't want to see their patients really make choices," Kullnig said.

Some hospital administrators are also unhappy. They want their staff doctors to read images from the hospital PACS, but the doctors continue to use iPACS because it contains more information and is available around the clock, unlike the hospital PACS.

Despite these pressures, Kullnig has persisted, placing patient welfare ahead of other interests. Soon he may have another incentive.

The Austrian government has begun issuing patients SmartCards containing their medical information. This is only the first step toward digital healthcare in Austria; plans are in the works to create online accounts with access to patients' complete medical records, each accessible to individual patients.

"It turns out we have developed a system that will perfectly fit into the government's plans for the patient record," Kullnig said.

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