Maine HIE to pilot nation’s first statewide medical image archive

HealthInfoNet, working with some of Maine’s largest health care organizations, will pilot the nation’s first statewide medical image archive. With this new service, HealthInfoNet will reduce the cost of storage and transport of electronic medical images and make sharing these images possible through the health information exchange (HIE).

“The HIE contained image reports for several years,” said Todd Rogow, Director of Information Technology at HealthInfoNet. “The new image archive allows us to share the images themselves, something providers have asked for and told us will better support their treatment decision-making.”

In addition to leveraging the HIE, the service prepares Maine’s providers for sharing images through the NwHIN Direct and Connect systems. It also supports the development of Accountable Care Organizations and other shared risk model care delivery structures.

An estimated 1.8 million medical images (x-rays, mammograms, CT scans, MRIs etc…) are generated in Maine each year, totaling more than 45 terabytes of data. The organizations who were part of the design of the project generate 1.4 million of those images. Currently those images are stored in a number of different electronic archives and mostly shared between non-affiliated providers by copying the images to CDs. By consolidating these images into a single archive, HealthInfoNet estimates that Maine’s providers stand to save $6 million over seven years through reduced storage and transport costs.

“When a patient has an x-ray or MRI at a facility outside our system, it can take days for their doctor at Maine Medical Center, for example, to get a copy of that image” says Barry Blumenfeld, MD, Chief Information Officer at MaineHealth, which supports the project and participated in its design. “This new service will save time for our providers and their patients. With instant access to a patient’s images, medical staff can treat them much faster and the patient won’t have to take the time to pick up and deliver CDs.”

There are several additional benefits of having images stored in one place. First, easier access to past image studies should lead to less repeat tests, meaning less cost and less radiation exposure for patients. Also, HealthInfoNet will be able to link each image with a single patient identifier through its HIE Master Person Index, making it easier for providers to search for all a patient’s prior images when needed to track changes over time. For example, a radiologist wants to see all of a woman’s past mammograms, not just her most recent, to better detect changes in her breast tissue.

To build and operate the new cloud-based archive, HealthInfoNet selected Dell through a rigorous RFP process that involved vetting by both Maine clinicians and health information technology professionals. Dell manages one of the world’s largest cloud-based clinical archives through its Unified Clinical Archive solution, with more than 71 million clinical studies, nearly 5 billion diagnostic imaging objects and supporting more than 800 clinical sites.

HealthInfoNet, Dell and the pilot group of Maine health care organizations will work together over the summer to confirm the system design and integrate the service with existing PACS systems and the HIE. HealthInfoNet expects to end the pilot phase in the fall and expand the service statewide by 2013.

“Maine healthcare providers have always been early adopters and innovators when it comes to using health information technology,” said James Coffin, Ph.D., vice president and general manager of Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences. “Dell is excited to work with HealthInfoNet to advance the state’s HIT leadership by deploying the first statewide image-enabled HIE.”