At the top of the official seal for the state of Maine is the Pole Star, which is called the “star of direction” for a ship out at sea. Under the star is the Latin word dirigo which means “I direct” or “I lead.” In medical imaging, the State of Maine has taken the lead as the first state in the nation to establish a system of statewide medical archiving.
Maine’s health information exchange, HealthInfoNet, is navigating a new program that will give physicians access to medical images statewide. To date the new exchange serves over three-quarters of the state’s 1.3 million residents.
According to Todd Rogow, director of information technology at HealthInfoNet, the agency has worked for two years to get the right level of participation in order to make this image exchange successful. The four main hospital systems are on board, which accounts for 1.4 million of the 1.8 million images produced each year in the state.
Faster Patient Service
Currently, medical imaging data is stored in a number of dissimilar PACS within the various hospitals. When it is necessary to share the images between non-affiliated hospitals and private physician practices, they’re normally copied to CDs, and then delivered by mail or messenger.
“When a patient has an X-ray or MRI at a facility outside of our system, it can take days for their doctor at Maine Medical Center, for example, to get a copy of that image,” said Dr. Barry Blumenfeld, CIO at MaineHealth healthcare system, which supports the project and participated in its design.
“This new service will save time for our providers and their patients. With instant access to a patient’s images, medical staff can treat them much faster and the patient won’t have to take the time to pick up and deliver CDs,” he said.
The new medical imagery archive will be hosted on a separate public cloud infrastructure.
It’s Time to Stop Competing for Data
In most other states, for competitive and proprietary reasons, hospitals oppose sharing information on their patients with other hospitals that are not part of their affiliate system. Because its population is smaller than some states, Maine has been able to get most hospitals to participate in the exchange.
“In 2005 and 2006, when HealthInfoNet was first being developed, healthcare providers had to agree to share information,” explained Amy Landry, communications manager for HealthInfoNet.
This point was substantiated by Rogow when he noted, “Overall, there has to be a sense of readiness to share data. People have to understand that competing isn’t the answer. They’re still competing, but on the quality of service they provide, not competing over data.”
It may take a while for Maine’s trend-setting medical imaging project to prove itself enough to be adopted in other states. In the meantime, medical imaging solutions by McKesson are uniquely designed to help medical providers create their own smaller, local versions of “data exchanges” within their organizations. Until every state has an exchange, we help health care providers of all sizes and complexity manage the massive amount of specialized imaging applications that come from dealing with today’s medical imaging departments.