With the arrival of COVID-19 on the world stage, interest in telemedicine and interoperability has surged in the recent months. It can literally be a lifesaver, potentially allowing doctors and patients to connect remotely and help prevent spreading the disease. The ability to digitally share patient data and medical images can be critical to the doctor-patient interaction.
Enterprise imaging plays an important role in facilitiating image sharing via telemedicine. We’ve answered some common questions about how this technology supports virtual visits and medical image sharing on behalf of patients and providers.
Frequently Asked Questions: How Enterprise Imaging Can Enhance Interoperability and Telemedicine
1. The current state of telemedicine is challenging, yet it is never more needed than during this time of global pandemic. Can an Enterprise Imaging (EI) Solution help?
Yes, an EI solution can complement telemedicine systems with enhanced interoperability, by allowing clinicians to share images of all types with their patients. Using photorealistic diagnostic images is a powerful way to communicate with patients because it can help enhance patient engagement and understanding of their personal health matters.
An EI solution does this by granting access to all medical images stored in an electronic medical record and supporting their display through a telemedicine system. An enterprise imaging system can find the appropriate images regardless of their storage (such as in a PACS or VNA) and then share the images It means that staff no longer need to take a CD, upload its contents, correct patient data or reconcile it with information that may already exist in a PACS, and ensure it is stored correctly.
Some solutions also allow patients to share or upload images from prior exams or visible light photos via a personal computer or mobile device*.
*Not for diagnostic use when viewed from a mobile device.
Related Article: Enterprise Imaging PACS Evolution
2. Do I need a dedicated patient portal to address patient/provider collaboration?
No, a patient portal is not required. However, an EI solution can help improve patient portals and telemedicine by providing a means of sharing images between patients and providers. If you have a patient portal and you want to share various types of medical images from across your enterprise, then you will need an EI solution that has a content agnostic architecture and is capable of working with PACS and VNAs throughout your organization. (See the next question for more detail.
3. Am I limited to sharing images only from radiology or cardiology? What about other departments?
To access medical images throughout the enterprise and across departments other than radiology or cardiology, you need a solution that is not only agnostic but also includes a data orchestration engine that constantly renews and refreshes information from disparate sources in real time. It must be able to retrieve both DICOM and non-DICOM images. This means you need an EI solution that accesses all sources and can orchestrate the data through an open standards-based platform.
4. Must the images be integrated in the EHR?
No, an EHR is not required to display images. You will need a viewer that a physician can use to display images for telemedicine purposes. Most viewers – whether they are advanced visualization, diagnostic, or enterprise viewers – can accommodate viewing by patients and outside physicians. These capabilities are made much more effective when they are combined with the interoperable power of a data orchestration engine.
5. What about foreign exams that are located in PACS or VNA outside of my hospital system?
A quality enterprise imaging solution will be capable of PACS federation and image sharing across the enterprise or with unaffiliated providers.
Related article: Read our article about Gartner’s report on imaging content management for more information about enterprise imaging strategies and challenges
6. How are outside images accepted by an enterprise and integrated into existing systems and clinical workflows?
This process is often referred to as the “last mile.” How enterprises accept images from other organizations is a process that is traditionally manual, slow, and complicated. To solve the last-mile problem, an EI solution must automate the processes for outside image ingestion, allowing clinicians fast access to outside images within their current workflow. Closing the gap and completing the image sharing workflow benefits the department, the enterprise, and ultimately the patient.
Enterprise imaging is not only an important support for healthcare to be truly interoperable in the future, but also serves to enhance telemedicine today.
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