HealthScreen aims to improve referring docs' access to medical data

February 14, 2001

For referring physicians, specialists, and patients who are feeling left out of the imaging loop, HealthScreen America may have a solution.The Jacksonville, FL, company has applied for a patent on a process that could store digital images on a standard

For referring physicians, specialists, and patients who are feeling left out of the imaging loop, HealthScreen America may have a solution.

The Jacksonville, FL, company has applied for a patent on a process that could store digital images on a standard CD for viewing on PCs. The company, which operates freestanding and mobile screening facilities in the U.S., believes the technology could save the healthcare industry billions of dollars annually and improve patient care.

While the technology would make diagnostic images more readily available to physicians who lack access to expensive PACS, it would also inject an element of fun into healthcare. Patients could be given a CD containing their own images, which they then could keep for future referenceÑor even use to create computer screensavers and wallpaper.

"We have wonderful technology that is leveraged with wonderful detectors and computers in a digital format, but then we ruin it by using 1940s-style film that requires expensive processors and chemicals that produce hazardous waste," said Dr. Eduardo Balbona, chief medical director for HealthScreen America. "The image is created in a static format where there's one copy that's either too dark or too light. Then, it's distributed to the various doctors, who have to wait their turn to see it. And God forbid someone loses the picture or a patient wants to see it."

The HealthScreen America process changes all that, Balbona said. Using widely available technology, software devised by HealthScreen would capture the diagnostic images in a digital format, then transfer them onto a standard CD. The software, which is self-booting, enables both physicians and consumers to view and manipulate clinical images anywhere and at any time.

In addition to convenience and patient-friendliness, there are other advantages. Misplaced images add billions of dollars to healthcare system expenses each year and force patients to undergo additional imaging and needless radiation exposure. The HealthScreen America process would make lost images easily replaceable, Balbona said. Finally, images could be transferred electronically from one physician to another, eliminating the need for costly courier services.

"Images could be distributed via wire, or a dozen CDs could be printed at once," Balbona said. "There's no quality degradation. Copy film is 10 times more expensive than regular film, and the image quality just gets worse and worse and worse."

HealthScreen America developed the technology while searching for a user-friendly means of providing clients with a comprehensive record of the dozens of screening tests it offers for the early detection of disease. Data generated by the tests, which screen for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and various cancers, are stored in the company's proprietary database and made available for clients to share with their medical providers. CDs seemed a logical medium on which to store the images.

"Our basic premise is that consumers have a fundamental right to know what's going on in their bodies; whether it's a picture or a number, it's objective data," Balbona said. "No one should be keeping secrets from you. No one is more vested in your health than you are."

HealthScreen America is already using the process in conjunction with its Personal Health Management product, a series of imaging and other tests designed to provide patients with a comprehensive health evaluation. As part of that evaluation, patients are given, free of charge, a CD containing their images. Ultimately, the company hopes every radiology department in the U.S. will subscribe to the process.

"We hope the economic incentives will be so great that every radiology suite in the nation will license," Balbona said. "We'll make it affordable."