AT&T, Accenture Service Stores Medical Images In Cloud

Joint venture will help providers manage larger image files and assist smaller hospitals that don't have a radiologist on staff.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

December 1, 2011

4 Min Read

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Accenture and AT&T have launched a cloud-based medical imaging service that will help health professionals and radiologists access, review, and store X-rays, CT, MRI scans, and other images through AT&T's network.

The Accenture Medical Imaging Solution, which was introduced at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, Ill., will help bridge the gap between hospitals that have radiology specialists and those that don't.

"It's like a social networking community for radiologists to be able to work together and share the workload," Derek Danois, who leads medical imaging for Accenture Health, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Danois explained that hospitals, particularly in rural areas, that do not have a radiologist on site can participate in a two-way exchange by performing the scans and uploading the images through AT&T's medical imaging management service. A radiologist at the other end can access the report, interpret the results, and send a diagnosis back to the hospital where the scans originated.

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Danois also pointed out that the cloud-based service will complement the data exchange approach being considered by hospitals looking to join health information exchanges (HIEs).

The Accenture Medical Imaging Solution has three components:

Workflow analysis and enablement--Accenture's consulting group will work with hospitals and other care providers to help them improve the way they manage and store medical images. Consultants will also help healthcare delivery organizations redesign workflow processes associated with managing radiology services.

Teleradiology exchange--The Accenture exchange will help to match supply and demand of radiology facilities and services. This can provide community-based hospitals with access to radiology services from medical centers, enabled by AT&T's network and cloud hosting capabilities.

Long-term image management--The AT&T Medical Imaging and Information Management service, which is a vendor-neutral, cloud-based service, helps providers using AT&T's network to store, access, view, and share patient medical images from virtually anywhere. The pay-as-you-go storage pricing lets providers store medical images easily and avoid costly capital investment in storage infrastructure. The cost will be around $1 per transaction.

Randall Porter, assistant vice president, AT&T For Health, said in an interview that Accenture's considerable systems integration experience combined with AT&T's network expertise can help hospital systems unlock the entire workflow--from patient to specialist to storage to access--and do so virtually in real time.

"The shift from analog to digital images has resulted in exponential growth in the amount of data that must be stored," Porter said. "The growth of medical images is driven by a two-fold factor--the number of medical images performed annually is increasing and the size of medical imaging files being generated that are graphically rich and complex require more storage space."

According to AT&T officials, their Medical Imaging and Information Management system offers redundancy of images stored in two different, geographically disparate Internet data centers, which help hospitals gain efficiencies from consolidated expandable storage.

The system provides security, which includes encryption of files in transit and at rest. And AT&T also updates images along with patients' demographic information using the HL7 protocol for the electronic exchange of data in healthcare environments.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the number of U.S. medical imaging procedures is projected to surpass the 800 million mark this year. An Accenture study conducted last year showed that roughly 73% of healthcare organizations plan to shift storage of imaging data to the cloud, in some capacity, while 32% were actively using some form of cloud computing technology.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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