If you are not yet convinced to give up burning CDs for your patients, then you might want to review what the recipient of these discs thinks about your current practice....Time and time again, we hear subspecialists lament a failed attempt to view patients’ images from a CD generated by the patient's hospital or outpatient imaging center. These complaints generally fall into one of the following five categories, all of which are great reasons to give up CDs and move to the modern world of sharing images electronically.
Five reasons subspecialists give for not wanting patients to bring a copy of their images on a CD:
1. I want to see the images before the patient's appointment.
Patients often bring CDs of their images to their subspecialist during their appointment. However, sometimes upon viewing a study, it is clear that the subspecialist is the wrong person to see about the particular malady. It would be more effective and efficient for everyone, the patient as well as the physician, to be able to provide the images to the subspecialist in advance. If the patient could simply email a link to the image before their appointment, the subspecialist could determine if the visit is appropriate for the case or if the patient should see a different physician. If it is appropriate, the subspecialist could already have some thoughts about the case, making the visit more efficient overall. Sharing the image in advance electronically is quicker, more cost effective and overall more secure; mailing CDs is always expensive and may end up with private health information getting lost or into the wrong hands, which isn't good for anyone.
2. Loading images from a CD into the computer takes too long.
For busy physicians, every minute counts. Physicians have their hands full reviewing and completing EHR records, let alone interacting with patients and determining a diagnosis or treatment plan, during their brief patient encounters. When a patient brings them a CD to review, this throws an obstacle into their tightly choreographed day. Patience for slow technology is not something most physicians have the luxury of experiencing. Assuming the subspecialist even has a computer with a CD drive (which many companies don't even make anymore), if the patient’s image doesn’t immediately load and appear, they may give up and go on with the patient exam or treatment without the benefit of viewing the image on your expensive and tediously burned CD.
3. The image may load, but the viewer provided on the CD is difficult to use.
Scanning through a series or medical imaging study efficiently and effectively requires familiarity with the medical image viewer. There is no standardization of embedded image viewers often used on CDs, and many of them are not intuitive, meaning it can be a clunky and time-consuming process to even scroll through the provided image or get the correct view and measurements needed. Loading the image into the computer alone is never sufficient for a successful image delivery. If someone needs to manipulate the program to display what the doctor needs, this is a failure on the image providers' end. In general, the viewers embedded on CDs can be more frustrating and time-consuming for the physician than they should be.
4. The disc is encrypted and I don't have the key.
Providers are subject to the security requirements of HIPAA in the United States. This causes some well-meaning practices to encrypt the images on the discs they burn for patients. But encrypted discs are of no value if the recipient doesn’t have the key to unlock them. By the time the disc gets to the subspecialist, it is very unlikely that the key is available. The disc and all the work that went into burning it is essentially worthless.
5. My patients forget to bring their CDs to the appointment.
All too often, well-meaning patients forget their CDs when they go for their appointment with the subspecialist. Whether it is the angst of having to see the subspecialist in general or just the bustle of day to day life, patients show up for their visit only to realize they don't have the CD they knew they were supposed to carry with them. This can cause major delays in the patient's appointment and treatments, as well as disrupting the physician's office schedule.
All of these scenarios can be solved with a simple update to modern technology. How much easier would it be if the patient could simply use their laptop or cellphone to email the subspecialist a link to access their medical images on an intuitive web-based medical image viewer? They could do this in advance or even right in the subspecialist's office.
There IS a better way to serve your patients and your subspecialist colleagues as an imaging center or referring physician. Enabling patients and subspecialists to share studies electronically in advance can save you money and time and make everyone involved a whole lot happier. So, please consider ceasing the practice of burning CDs once and for all. Instead, make it easy for your patients to share their studies easily with the press of a button on their computer or cell phone. Subspecialists everywhere will thank you.