Many health care professionals and practices rely on a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) to store and manage their medical images. However, the benefits of having a modern PACS can extend beyond the storage of images and can become an integral part of the delivery of health care.
Leveraging a PACS to enable collaboration and easy sharing of medical imaging studies with both sub specialists as well as patients has the potential to improve satisfaction with both your patients and referring physicians, and here's why...
Sharing Studies Can Lend Credibility to a Diagnosis
Some of the most critical issues in health care today are related to physicians' transparency with patients. Your patients need to understand the "why" behind your diagnosis. Often, they want to know you are sharing with them all the information you have, especially if it relates to a serious diagnosis.
Simply put, when you treat a patient and only provide the diagnosis, patients feel left out in the cold. Most would prefer a more detailed explanation of the basis of that conclusion. Lacking that, your opinion can often feel just like that - an opinion - as opposed to a clear understanding.
Assess Your Solution: Are You Managing Your Medical Images Effectively?
In prior generations, almost no one questioned a physician's opinion. When the doctor gave you his opinion and your treatment plan, you did it. However, we call it the “practice of medicine” for a reason; doctors are not infallible. They reach the best conclusions they can, but none have all the answers.
Certainly, second opinions have proven helpful in diagnosing complex disorders, and the electronic sharing of studies now makes this easier than ever before. Making it simple to share and review radiology reports along with their associated medical imaging studies can lead to benefits beyond just additional transparency, but ultimately to better medical outcomes.
Additionally, with newly emerging online resources afforded by the information age, patients are capable of being much more informed consumers of health care services.
Armed with this additional information, patients are much more apt to question a diagnosis and try to understand the underlying associated issues and causation. With substantial advancements in technology, patients now can directly ask their physicians to show them their medical images, removing a layer of ambiguity.
While patients should not try to become their own medical experts, the saying, "You are your own best advocate" holds true in health care. No one cares more about a patient's health than the patient themselves. As such, having a patient's eye reviewing their own medical images can sometimes raise seemingly naive questions that may lead to identifying issues the doctor hadn’t considered.
Access to medical imaging can also result in patients of chronic conditions becoming intimately educated on their own condition based on understanding prior imaging studies and observing changes over time.
Sharing Medical Images Can Improve the Doctor-Patient Relationship
While some physicians still can be hesitant to share medical imaging studies with other physicians or patients due to feeling as if their diagnosis is under scrutiny, more and more physicians are welcoming the opportunity.
An increasing number of doctors are encouraging the sharing of medical images in an effort to better communicate with their patients. Patients in turn feel more informed, improving trust with physicians and defusing antagonistic interactions when errors are made.
New generations of patients are now expecting their physicians to share all of the information they have, including their radiology reports and imaging scans. Love it or hate it, the reality is that patients now feel entitled to be able to easily access their medical imaging after a study has been performed.
The Pros of Medical Image Sharing Outweigh the Cons
Not all doctors have completely bought into sharing medical images with their patients, sometimes for good reason.
There certainly has been evidence of patients misusing this information or questioning things that are beyond their knowledge. In addition, some doctors fear that their time will be taken up with uniformed questions from patients who try to get in deeper than they’re capable of understanding. They may also feel patients start participating too much in their own care without proper education, which can lead to mistakes and wasted time.
However, in our experience, the improved transparency you can get from sharing medical images with other physicians and patients far exceeds the negatives. Beyond that, additional pairs of eyes can lead to improved outcomes, whether from a second opinion or from the patients themselves who have a vested interest in making sure images are interpreted correctly.
Sharing of medical images will continue to become more popular, and physicians who are prepared to share images seamlessly will be better positioned for this trend.