The Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research and the Academy of Radiology Research held a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill titled “Electronic Health Record: Virtual Images” on June 23rd 2009. This event emphasized the importance of considering the unique challenges of incorporating images into the electronic health records and its impact on the advancement of patient care.
Renee Cruea, President of CIBR, highlighted the value of advancements in imaging technologies for improved patient care from early detection to treatment. She spoke of Ellie Taggart, who recently passed from late stage lung cancer. Cruea noted that “Ellie, her husband and her daughters faced what millions of families face every day: health challenges where the patient would benefit significantly from advanced imaging technology as well as access to the results throughout their care. Advances in imaging technology, and coordinated patient care using an electronic health record which is capable of maintaining, managing and transferring patient images, will improve patient access, save travel time and anxiety, cost less for the patient and family members in terms of time lost from work as well as fewer unnecessary tests and overall improve patient outcomes.” One of the largest datasets to be included in an EHR will be images. The ability to have high quality images (often several for one patient) within an EHR will be a significant challenge. Access and ability to transfer the images through an effective EHR will be vital and have a direct impact on patients as well as family members involved in coordinating their care.
Maureen Rigney, Director of Patient Services, Lung Cancer Alliance, then spoke about the importance of imaging to the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Imaging is vital for the detection, treatment, and diagnosis of lung cancer, which is the number one cause of death from cancer. Rigney articulated real life examples of patients whose care had been compromised as a result of doctors’ offices not having coordinated systems for imaging records. When films are lost, important data needed for treatment is lost, and the patient must undergo the time and expense of tracking down records, transporting or undergoing additional scans. This can be alleviated by incorporating images appropriately into a well-designed EHR.
Eliot Siegel, MD, Vice Chairman, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Chief, Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, VA Maryland Healthcare System, gave an overview of “Diagnostic Imaging and the Electronic Health Record”. Dr. Siegel described flaws in the current system of storing health records and the advantages that an integrated system can provide. He concluded with recommendations to the audience on the proper steps forward for diagnostic radiology and imaging as an integral part of an electronic health record.
Rick Reichard, MPA, CHE, Senior Healthcare Consultant, Veterans iHealth Technology Leaders and Founder and Managing Partner of HEALTHeSTATE, spoke about the importance of acting now to consider the unique challenges of implementing images into an EHR. It will be difficult to implement the necessary framework if imaging is considered after the fact, early consideration of its application to all health delivery systems is crucial to a successful EHR.
In summary, as a national EHR is developed, the imaging component should receive early consideration due to the special challenges with storing and transferring large images. The Academy and CIBR can provide additional information. Please contact Roxanne at 202.347.5872.