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8/30/2011
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Cloud-Based Images Help Montefiore Doctors With Referrals

Doctors can view images for referred, potential patients, without having to trade film, disks, or order new tests.

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At Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., physicians often review medical images of referred patients who aren't yet official patients of the institution--a review that helps them determine if the case warrants their clinical expertise. Cloud-based services are helping them view high-quality medical images, like MRIs and CT scans, and collaborate on the diagnosis and treatment plans of high-risk, referred patients, without having to trade film, disks, or order new tests.

"Doctors here get a lot of referrals from around the world," said Mony Weschler, director of ancillary informatics at Montefiore, the university hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "A lot of patients need consults to see if they're eligible for our care." But during that "in-between" time, in which a referred patient isn't yet an official patient of Montefiore, there are often many images that Montefiore doctors need to review.

Because not all of these referrals will be accepted to Montefiore as the medical center's patients, these images aren't immediately added to Montefiore's picture archiving and communication system (PACS). But the images--which are often sent to Montefiore on disks or film, aren't easily physically shared among the number of specialists who may need to review them. "Doctors will say, I have a disk that I need to share with another doctor across campus,'" said Weschler. "If we get images on a CD or film, consults are very time consuming, we often need to share these images faster among groups of physicians," he said.

With that in mind, Montefiore recently launched a project that allows its doctors to view medical images of patients without having to send a disk to multiple physicians. It's storing and sharing medical images of transient patients on a cloud-based image sharing platform offered by LifeImage, a provider of cloud-based medical image e-sharing services and products.

Montefiore's use of LifeImage DropBox and LifeImage OutBox applications allow doctors to upload a CD with medical images into LifeImage so that multiple physicians can securely view and share high-quality images via a Web browser or Mac, without the images having to be part of the medical center's PACS.

LifeImage can also be used "as a sharing tool" for research. Montefiore can send images from its PACS to LifeImage so that doctors at other institutions, such as the University of California, Los Angeles, can study the images, he said. "LifeImage takes the whole image, DICOM and jpeg, and allows physicians to conduct a full clinical study with the images," he said. In the past it was difficult to share images not yet part of a PACS system because the images are large "and email isn't secure enough and can't handle these size files," he said.

Another advantage in switching from CDs to the cloud: "Our physicians are used to mobility and can share the images or view them on an iPad," he said.

Finally, while Montefiore isn't yet exchanging images in a health information exchange, Weschler said the cloud-based platform is a good way to start doing just that.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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