Suppose a specialist physician in California is corresponding with a patient in Texas who has an urgent illness. The physician wants to schedule an emergency appointment, but needs to review the patient's medical imaging studies to properly confirm and address the diagnosis. The patient could send a CD hard copy of their studies through the mail, but this is costly and wastes valuable time. The CD could also get lost in transit or arrive to the physician broken or unreadable.
In the medical field, delays can mean the difference between life and death. An alternative solution growing in popularity is uploading a DICOM imaging study and scans directly to the cloud through a physician's web portal. This enables patients to electronically share images with physicians, who can immediately view and diagnose conditions from their cloud picture archiving and communications system (PACS) from anywhere, without sending CD hard copies.
Seamless, electronic image sharing allows physicians and specialists to determine whether they are suited to treat a particular patient without needing to assess them in-person. If a physician is not equipped to treat the patient based on the DICOM image study, the patient doesn't need to schedule a visit or travel to see the doctor.
Sharing DICOM images through the cloud also eliminates the need to mail a CD copy containing private medical information. Patients wait several days for a physician to review their images when they are sent through the mail, which delays diagnosis and wastes valuable time at a critical point in the progression of a condition.
Yet sharing images from things like CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays electronically with doctors presents its own set of technical challenges and questions for hospitals, including:
- How can I send a DICOM file securely?
- How do I access DICOM images through the cloud?
- How do I export a DICOM image?
- How can patients upload massive medical images in the DICOM format, sometimes with multiple components, without having access to specialized equipment?
- Will a simple browser really suffice as the tool to accomplish this?
Current DICOM Image Sharing Options for Patients
Today, another alternative to mailing a CD is downloading a software application onto your computer that allows you to send a study to your desired physician. However, this idea creates a few problems of its own.
With viruses, phishing and security issues so commonplace for health care facilities, the idea of downloading something from the internet to share images is almost anathema in the medical field. Hospital IT policies often prohibit downloads from the internet as they are dubbed as being potentially risky.
The only other viable option is to perform the image sharing within a browser, also known as a "thin client." Most of us can run browsers on our machines, even with tight security protocols in place. However, every browser is a bit different. Some will not recognize CD drives in your computer. Some may not let you drag and drop directories. This increases the complexity for what should be a simple task. As a result, many web-based medical image uploaders fail when patients try uploading their images.
To avoid these issues, some people just use a file-sharing application like Dropbox or Google Drive to copy and share the files. But file sharing can be insecure and in some cases a de facto violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) putting the viewer at risk of a privacy violation.
With Technology, A Better Method of Sharing Has Arrived
If only there was a platform that would give patients a seamless, secure, and HIPAA-compliant way to upload medical image files and share them with providers without running afoul of IT. Well, now there finally is an alternative that works with any browser, is secure, easy to use and foolproof — an alternative that addresses all of the objections raised above.
Purview has developed a web-based, fully functional DICOM uploading system that enables patients to send studies to the cloud right from within their browser. Purview Image is HIPAA- compliant with HIPAA, and you can use it without having to download additional plugins or extensions, potentially risking the security of your system.
Speed Matters, But So Does the Right Solution
In the medical field today, speed is essential. Physicians and patients alike need the ability to capture an electronic image and deliver it to its destination as quickly as possible. However, you must make sure that whatever solution you choose to share medical imaging studies electronically won't create compliance issues or compromise your network's security. No amount of convenience is worth that level of cost.
With the drawbacks associated receiving medical images via CDs, file sharing applications or email, consider an option that integrates directly within your website and enables immediate, secure sharing of virtual DICOM standard image files from patients. Time to diagnosis will decrease, saving valuable time time for both you and your patients.