Cloud Image Sharing: One Clinic’s Experience

January 19, 2012

“It’s a beautiful thing. We can send images and set up connections on the fly as they’re needed,” said Gayle Knudson, Great Falls Clinic’s radiology manager.

The road to cloud-based image sharing for Great Falls Clinic started with a conversation in early 2010 about how Montana’s far-flung healthcare facilities were unconnected. By May 2010, the clinic - and its radiologists - was connected to its long-distance sister facilities across the state using eMix.

“It’s a beautiful thing. We can send images and set up connections on the fly as they’re needed,” said Gayle Knudson, Great Falls Clinic’s radiology manager.

The number of diagnostic studies Great Falls loads to eMix each month is small - roughly 10 studies - but the financial impact from switching to the cloud sharing solution has been noticeable, Knudson said. Previously, overnighting an image CD to another facility cost approximately $25. With the cloud, that price tag drops to $1 per transfer.

The clinic’s PACS administrator Joanne Thomas said Great Falls has also used the cloud platform to help patients side-step service delays. For example, when a Great Falls’ patient forgot the image CD on the day of scheduled spinal surgery at an area academic medical center, Thomas said the clinic quickly established a secure link and transferred the required images.

The transition to cloud image sharing has been relatively seamless, Knudson said, but it hasn’t been without concerns. As with most new technologies, Great Falls had to train its employees to use the system, as well as allay fears about patient security and privacy.

Even with these anxieties, she said, the cloud sharing platform provides a significant benefit for Great Falls and the facilities to which it is connected.

“With a CD, there’s always the fear that it will be lost or overlooked because the right person might not be there to accept it,” she said. “With cloud sharing, none of that matters. No one has to be there to accept the images. They’re on the server, and they’ll be there when the appropriate person logs in to view them.”