ARRS: Progress report on national image-sharing venture

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 01, 2012
Researchers at American Roentgen Ray Society's annual meeting in Vancouver this week submitted a progress report on an ambitious image-sharing venture that allows patients to share their images with providers. If successful, researchers hope this could one day help reduce the number of repeat scans patients undergo because imaging data aren't readily accessible to their doctors.

The project, started by the Radiological Society of North America with $4.7 million in funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, lets patients allow scans to be uploaded into image-enabled personal health records that can then be shared with other providers.

The RSNA Image Share project involves a consortium of five institutions organized by the society, including the University of Chicago, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, University of Maryland in Baltimore and the University of San Francisco. So far, about 600 patients are participating in the program.
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Launched in August 2011, it required participants to develop a three-part architecture: a radiology department server to act as intermediary between PACS and the cloud, a clearinghouse in the cloud to handle data exchange between the server and the personal health record, and the PHR itself, according to the researchers' abstract.

In a press release, Dr. David Mendelson, chief of clinical informatics at Mount Sinai and the lead investigator of the project, said one of the biggest challenges in setting up the program was overcoming local HIPAA issues, and smoothing out security and confidentiality wrinkles. But so far, patients seem to like it.

"Many patients find this paradigm not only acceptable but preferable in that they have ownership of their examinations and can distribute them as they deem necessary," the researchers wrote in the abstract to the report. "It can sit alongside the traditional health information exchange and provide a practical means to allow patients to share their images at their discretion."

The pilot project has two further stages. For the next stage, the collaborative is working on developing a way for site-to-site data transfers for patients who don't feel comfortable uploading their private information to the personal health record on the cloud. The third stage will allow sharing of imaging data with all identifying information scrubbed away to be used in clinical trials.

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