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Rethinking collaborative image sharing and reporting: the solution could be in the cloud

doctors image sharing computers
doctors image sharing computers

Howard Jenkinson

Chief Technical Officer & Director, Cimar

Howard Jenkinson, chief technical officer and director of healthcare cloud provider Cimar talks about the future.

How do you see the near future of medical imaging in the UK and globally?

Complex imaging is increasing in volume for diagnostics, and demand for imaging from referrers and patients is growing exponentially, as faster and better NHS treatment is expected.  Meanwhile tighter budgets require greater efficiency – for imaging that means minimising duplication, greater availability and faster, easier transfer.

Affordable, efficient image management, lower-cost storage and faster, dependable transfer solutions are essential, and we’ll continue to see collaborative diagnostic networks between NHS trusts, across borders and internationally.

What is the situation at trusts currently? How can they improve their sharing capabilities?

Most hospital imaging systems cannot communicate with each other easily, if at all.  Even if they can, images are sent between PACS offices rather than direct to clinicians.  No data compression and outdated technology make existing transfer slow and manually intensive.

Hospitals still depend on posting CDs to outside organisations. CDs are costly and slow to produce, have minimal audit trail and many discs can’t be read once received.

There is a myriad (and increasing) number of special/bespoke workflows required. Significantly more flexible, and smart solutions are essential to eliminate avoidable bottlenecks when sharing imaging, which currently costly manual intervention.  Better automation can prevent this, especially for acute transfers where immediate treatment is required.

What are the advantages of cloud technology in the health context?

The UK Department of Health is encouraging the use of cloud-based technology. It requires no new hardware and offers elastic lower-cost storage, incorporating compression so sharing is faster and smarter.

True Vendor Neutrality also mean systems from different vendors can communicate with each other easily.

Cloud-based VNA offers inbuilt disaster recovery, and exploits the latest low cost cloud-compute models.  The cloud is safe – look at the many government cloud services now running, and IT costs across the board are reduced.

Is patient data secure?

Absolutely – any company offering medical cloud services to the NHS must meet strict information governance requirements.  In a many ways, cloud is more secure than on-premises hospital data, which hackers have recently successfully targeted.  Advanced cloud storage on UNIX only infrastructure, reduce risk even further.

Cloud providers use data centres which optimise security. They are less vulnerable to cyber-attack as they have built-in hardened security protection at their core, run by security expert engineers.

Technology that splits and stores images and patient information, until it is requested, adds extra protection to stored patient data.

How can cloud address many of the issues we’ve discussed here?

Cimar is the UK medical imaging cloud which uses technology originating from the Mayo Clinic in the US.  Being vendor-neutral it can share images across sites and integrate with any systems, connecting disparate collaborators anywhere and direct to patients.

Trusts can use it to serve multiple different workflow needs and networks, querying and viewing images across multiple hospital systems simultaneously, reporting online, however specialised. Data compression, accelerates image transfer and patient treatment.

Cimar’s rich API also allows medical imaging to be seamlessly embedded within other healthcare systems such as EMR and online patient records.

In line with new government rules, the system also allows overseas citizens to pay in advance for opinion and imaging services online.

No infrastructure investment is required and the system can be up and running within days.

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