A picture is worth 1000 words

HealthInfoNet announced today a first-of-a-kind project to create a statewide medical image repository, and for the first time, make medical images available in the statewide health information exchange (HIE). As far as we know, Maine would be the first state to create such a repository and the first to provide access to this repository through the statewide HIE portal.

For the past several years, providers in Maine have been able to access image reports, but not the actual images. When the HIE first went live in 2009, HealthInfoNet decided not to include images because of bandwidth concerns. The average medical image study averages 50 megabytes in size and including these files in the HIE database from the get go would have made the system run at a snail’s pace. But now three years later, clinicians using the HIE are asking for those images too, because while text reports are helpful, the picture is worth a thousand words.

So, this new project will test creation of a separate cloud-based archive managed by Dell, to store images and interface with the HIE. This will give providers fast, secure access to medical images and place these images in context with a patient’s full medical history. Once fully implemented, an orthopedist treating a patient for back pain in Caribou could instantly view the MRI the patient had done in Portland six months earlier. Or a radiologist in Waterville could pull up all a women’s prior mammograms from multiple providers to see how her breast tissue changed over time.

In addition to the care coordination benefits, HealthInfoNet estimates it will save providers in Maine collectively $6 million in storage and transport costs over the next seven years, and will save the patient from needing to request and transport the CDs or physical images between their providers.