The Reading Room

Your patients have spoken: Give them access to images online

by Sarah Hostetter

As the health care industry begins to embrace the goals of population health management, increasing emphasis is being placed on high quality, efficient care delivery. One potential barrier to this type of care is delayed communication of imaging exam results to referring providers. Difficulties obtaining a patient’s images can lead to delays in patient care, costs associated with repeated imaging scans, and incomplete access to a patient’s medical history.

This need for easier access to patients' images has led to a proliferation of IT solutions for image sharing. One of these solutions, the RSNA Image Share Network, brings images straight to the patient, who can then view the images at home and share them with their referring provider. When patents enroll in this network, they create a password-protected online personal health record, and then radiologists can upload their images and reports directly to the server for viewing and downloading.

However, there have been some questions around the utility of a patient-centered image sharing program. Do patients think it is secure enough? Would they use it? A group of researchers from across the country set out to survey patients and ask these very questions.

Patients highly receptive to online image sharing

A group of 502 patients who were enrolled in the RSNA Image Share Network across multiple institutions completed a brief survey on their experiences. The survey revealed that patients wanted to and did access their images online. Almost all of these patients (96.5%) responded favorably to having direct access to their images. A majority of patients (78%) also reported that they viewed their images independently of their referring physician.

Patients also indicated that using the network was easy and that they felt their images were secure. There were no differences between satisfaction with privacy and security or reported delays in case between the patients who obtained their images via the internet versus a CD. Of patients who used both the internet and obtained a CD copy of their image, 94% reported ease of access with the internet versus 80% reporting ease of access with the CD.

Finally, patients identified the value of having internet access to their images. Almost all (94%) agreed that enabling physicians to quickly access medical images is critically important. The vast majority also appreciated the ability to access their own images (96%) and their own medical reports (98%).

Multiple vendor solutions to facilitate image sharing

The RSNA Image Share Network is just one example of IT-based solutions to facilitate quicker exchange of images between radiologists and referring providers. It is unique in that it brings the images directly to the patients, which aligns well with patient-centered approaches to population health. However, solutions that share images only with referrers like an integrated EMR, direct PACS interface, or cloud-based viewer may be more appropriate to your individual institution.

Regardless of which solution you choose, the key is being able to exchange images efficiently and securely to facilitate more cost effective, high quality patient care.

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