CHICAGO - Passing compact discs full of diagnostic images from institutions to patients and back will soon seem as archaic as “sneakernet” file transfer by floppy disk. That, at least, is the hope of the people behind RSNA Image Share, a $4.7 million initiative funded through the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) that was presented at RSNA Tuesday.
CHICAGO - Passing compact discs full of diagnostic images from institutions to patients and back will soon seem as archaic as “sneakernet” file transfer by floppy disk.
That, at least, is the hope of the people behind RSNA Image Share, a $4.7 million initiative funded through the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Three hospitals of the five pilot sites, which include the Mayo Clinic, the University of Chicago, University of California San Francisco, Mount Sinai and Washington University in St. Louis, are already live.
The technology is built to mimic the banking model. Medical images taken at radiology departments are uploaded to a secure clearinghouse, where patients can control access from their personal health record, much like accessing funds from an ATM. An eight-digit code, plus a password known only to the patient, ensures the privacy of the patient. After a patient accesses their images, they may select those they wish to share with others.
“This mechanism of distribution eliminates an entire layer of security and consent [issues] that you have to consider when you're trying to share enterprise-to-enterprise,” said the project's principal investigator, David Mendelson, MD, of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, who presented the initiative at RSNA 2011 Tuesday.
The NIBIB funds allow for 300,000 patients to be enrolled in the image-sharing network, and though only five institutions have implemented the technology so far, the funds cover 28 different sites.
The technology behind the image-sharing network is not new. “It's basically an image router sitting in the cloud,” Mendelson said. However, the implications for the project are far-reaching. With an image-sharing network, it is no longer necessary to FedEx a CD of images during a time-sensitive situation, nor fear that somebody will walk out of a hospital with a CD that is not theirs.
The image-sharing network provides a way to reduce redundancy of tests, thereby lowering a patient's exposure to radiation and freeing up key resources. “What's really inappropriate is to redo a scan on a patient that's just been done a few hours ago, and make the same diagnoses,” just because of poor image-sharing capabilities, said Keith Hentel, MD, of New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The project also worked on bringing together existing vendors doing “image sharing with proprietary solutions to adopt a common set of standards,” which would make image sharing more efficient and convenient for everybody, Mendelson said.
Several aspects of the RSNA Image Share project is powered by lifeIMAGE, an image-sharing vendor. According to Hamid Tabatabaie, CEO of lifeIMAGE, there are vendors who facilitate image sharing among two parties, but currently he has no competitors in the broadcasting system the Image Share project employs. His company processes 14 million radiology exams per year, less than 5 percent of all radiology exams. However, he predicts this technology will become the dominant method of image sharing within the next few years.