April 30, 2012

‘Cloud’ Computing Technology Should Make Sharing Medical Images Easier And More Efficient

Patients find "cloud" technology a faster, more efficient way to store and distribute their medical images than current options, according to the preliminary findings of an image sharing project led by The Mount Sinai Medical Center in conjunction with four other academic medical institutions. The Phase I results of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Image Share project are being presented today at the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Mount Sinai was the first site to go live in August 2011 and currently has about 190 patients enrolled in project. A total of about 600 patients are participating in all sites, which also include University of California - San Francisco, University of Chicago Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

"Cloud" computing involves using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

"This is the next revolution in digital imaging," said David Mendelson, MD, FACR, Chief of Clinical Informatics at The Mount Sinai Medical Center and Chief Clinical Investigator for RSNA Image Share. "It gives the patient ownership over their records and makes the information more accessible to physicians. Plus it decreases unnecessary radiation exposure that can be caused by physicians ordering duplicate examinations due to records not being easily available."

To use RSNA Image Share, patients create an account and password and then are given access to import their images and reports into the personal health record account. For patient confidentiality and security reasons, when the information leaves the server at each local radiology site and goes outside a hospital's firewall, it remains encrypted until it arrives in the patient's account, where it's unencrypted so the patient can see it.

"We're dealing with sensitive health information, so creating a secure and confidential system is of the utmost importance," said Dr. Mendelson. "But if you look at online banking or shopping, which both transport sensitive financial information; we know creating a secure, widely used system is an attainable goal."

In phase two of the trial, patients will be allowed to share their images without the images first being uploaded to an Internet-based personal health record. This should be useful in the event of severe acute trauma, with transfer to a trauma center. In phase three, the data will be de-identified and then made available for clinical trials.


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