Here’s the thing, we often talk about sharing and its value in the theoretical sense in our blogs. For us, sharing is an important part of fulfilling our mission of enabling the availability of medical images wherever and whenever they are needed for patient diagnosis and treatment. Of course, being in this industry means that over time we have seen and heard our fair share of real life accounts where the immediate ability to share studies has led to significantly improved medical outcomes. That being said, we have also found that there are cases when a local onsite PACS as the sole solution for sharing medical images has led to hindered medical outcomes.
Your Sharing Method Matters
Typically on-site PACS share via CDs. When CDs are involved, not only does the quality of treatment suffer, but you end up racking up your bill. This includes the cost of the CDs, the CD publisher, the time that it takes for your staff to burn images onto those CDs, the postage, etc. Not only that, but it takes time for the images to get to their destination regardless who is transporting them: the patient or the post office. By the time the images get where they are needed, often the CDs don’t work with the system at the specialist's office. The CD itself is scratched or damaged or even if the patient arrived 30 minutes early for their appointment, the CD never got there. All of which causes a delay in treatment. For patients suffering from a stroke, aggressive cancer, or other time sensitive conditions, time is of the essence. It’s undeniable; and if that treatment is postponed due to medical images not being available, it most certainly leads to a disappointing appointment, and in some cases: the difference between life and death. With the Hippocratic Oath, you vow that you will do the best to your ability to treat a sick human being. So why ignore the ugly truth? Sharing images with CDs does NOT enable efficient and effective medical treatment in time sensitive cases. This method is not only expensive to you, but can cost your patients their health. So the next time you look at your Horos or OsiriX viewer and consider it as the best solution available to you, think again. You'd be surprised to learn that a Cloud integration with your current solution would actually save you money.
A Real Life Scenario
Over the years, we have ran into countless real life examples of how sharing improves medical outcomes. Here is one of the many…
Abigail, a healthy 48-year-old woman visited a local outpatient imaging center to have some scans done due to investigation worthy symptoms. However, what started off as a routine visit ended up being a surprise diagnosis of kidney cancer. After a series of tests and specialists visits, Abigail’s cancer was determined to be inoperable and untreatable by FDA approved treatment protocol. Her family scrambled for alternatives and found an out-of-town clinical trial that would accept her. However, in order to join the trial, she needed to immediately assemble all of her scans and take them to her clinical trial location. Abigail had her scans done at 3 separate imaging center locations. So in the short amount of time that spanned her diagnosis to admission into the trial, and the commencement of the clinical trial, Abigail had to return to each location to collect CDs. However, the world doesn’t revolve around a diagnosis. Like any other patient with such a condition, Abigail had a life and a family to factor into the equation. Aside from making the arrangements to get her into the trial, Abigail and her husband had to ensure that their young children would be taken care of during their absence.
Every outsider looking in thinks that getting a copy of their medical images should be a quick and easy process - no appointment necessary. The reality of it is quite the opposite. For Abigail, it required numerous phone calls and hours spent waiting while the overworked staff at each location scrambled to get the right images burned onto CDs. At one location, the CD publisher itself was malfunctioning, so it took numerous visits before the device was able to burn the CDs needed. Once the couple had the images, they delicately packed the CDs and headed to the clinical trial. As requested, they arrived 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork and submit their images, and after an hour wait, the physician saw them. Abigail and her husband had spent thousands of dollars on airfare, the care for their children, lodging, as well as the expenses for the trial itself. Upon seeing Abigail, the physician informed her that a CD provided by one imaging center would not work on their system, so he could not read the images. Another CD had the WRONG studies on it. Instead of the scans and reports about her kidneys, the CD contained x-rays from a broken arm...an incident from years ago. Understandably, everyone in the room was frustrated. As you know, getting a seat in a clinical trial is not an easy task. There are often waiting lists. Fortunately for Abigail, they were able to get the images overnighted from the imaging centers - which of course ran a high bill at those locations.
So consider this - if instead of relying on technology from the 1900’s, what if those imaging centers could have simply clicked one button on their workstation and virtually send those images to the clinical trial location? It would take SECONDS versus the number of days that the CDs took. It would take one attempt versus the numerous for the CDs. It would have allowed the physicians at the trial to view Abigail’s images weeks before she even arrived to establish a preliminary plan of action for her variety of cancer. However, that time was lost. Once the images arrived via parcel, they were not read until the next day. With a Cloud solution, if the images had been shared virtually, the team could have read those images that evening at home, on a tablet, or other personal device even. It would have expedited the process. Unfortunately, the physician never had the opportunity to provide the best care to his ability for this patient - all due to the method of sharing images.
Abigail is doing well now, but while her journey still has hope, not all stories end with a happy ending. Think about it, Abigail had a couple of months between her diagnosis and the beginning of her trial. What if her cancer had spread to neighboring organs and compromised her prognosis furthermore? The hospital holding the clinical trial would not learn of this until the day of her appointment do to the lack of availability of images. However, if the images had been shared with the Cloud, the moment she was accepted, things would be different.
A local on-site PACS is not a terrible solution. Each practice is unique and if an on-site PACS works well with your workflow, then that’s great! However, if you are an imaging center or practice that does have to share medical images with other physicians for patients with time sensitive conditions, consider the Cloud. Sharing is critical to optimizing medical outcomes. Depending on the type of condition, it can mean the difference between life and death, or the quality of life that patient will lead after an incident. Having immediate access to medical images allows you to provide efficient and effective care to your patients. Besides, the best part of sharing with the Cloud (aside from saving lives of course) is the ability to access those shared images anywhere in the world, at any time, on any device.