As someone who has been in IT health care supporting hospitals, radiologists, and specialty surgeons, I’ve seen the struggle from just about every angle when it comes to the problems with health care technology. One of these struggles that continue to be a problem for myself, our patients, and our physicians are the imaging CDs that patients bring in.
Sometimes the patient brings in a disc that is found to be completely blank, or badly scratched, or sometimes the disc is poorly copied and has caused corruption on certain files that prevent the doctor from being able to view all of the images. Most of the time, however, the disc has so many images on it that it can take 30 minutes or longer for the computer to load each image. Finally, when all the images are loaded on the computer, the physician then has to struggle with figuring out how to use an application they have never seen before.
This issue is not only a burden on our caregivers, but is also a burden on our patients. The patient must wait longer than anticipated while a CD loads, causing the entire patient schedule to fall behind. Sometimes the patient is told that their disc isn’t working and is asked to reschedule their appointment while we request a new CD be sent over. This can be a costly expense to a patient who has had to travel hundreds of miles while in pain or awaiting critical surgery.
So how can we resolve these problems? Imaging centers need to have quality control processes in place when creating these imaging CDs to verify the disc works before handing over to the patient. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of still using technology from the 1980s. A long-term approach would be to require, possibly even mandate, that all images be available online. This would remove the responsibility of the patient to bring their CD with them and also remove nearly all of these issues that happen when something goes wrong with the CD. The end goal being that we need to stop using CDs.
The final issue that needs to be addressed is having an application with a familiar interface that a physician can quickly navigate and modify the images to extract as much information needed from each image. Unfortunately, every imaging developer has their own proprietary interface to view images and this becomes another bottleneck at improving patient care. Trying to figure out how to change the contrast, finding a measurement tool, or just figuring out how the software wants the user to move forward through each image can be a slow and tedious task.
Fortunately, all the images that are found on these imaging CDs use a standard file format called DICOM. By presenting these DICOM image files to any imaging viewing app, it would allow a practice to use only one app for all of the CDs or online images the doctor wants. A practice can then choose an application that they like the most, and use that application exclusively to open the disc or view an online portal to view the images.
Health care continues to rely on old, obsolete technology. We need to find new and inventive ways to adopt current technologies into our processes. Don’t even get me started on health care’s reliance on obsolete faxes.
Douglas Matulewic is an information technology manager.
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