Medical Imaging on The Rise in Emergency Departments


Medical Imaging on the Rise in Emergency DepartmentsAny discussion about healthcare reform revolves around cost savings. The adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) and the sharing of medical imaging data are advancing due to recent research that demonstrates utilization can result in millions of dollars in savings as well as better patient care when radiation exposure is minimized through reduced repeat procedures, especially in emergency room settings.

Research Demonstrates Savings

Lead researcher, Aaron Sodickson, M.D., Ph.D., interim director of emergency radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, maintains that importing images to  Picture Archiving & Communication Systems and Radiology Information Systems (PACS/RIS) from CD-ROMs upon admittance reduces unnecessary imaging exams in emergency rooms. (Source Science Daily.) Another study shows that sharing of electronic data among 12 emergency departments saved $1.9 million in one year by reducing hospital admissions and redundant imaging tests. (Source UPI Health News.)

While there’s a sense of urgency to accelerating the integration of IT into healthcare, the reality is that  medical imaging systems seemingly exist in bubbles inside the hospitals and radiology providers at which they reside: There exists no central repository from which to transfer patient records and medical images electronically to outside organizations. For these cases, a CD with clinical information already loaded and ready for transfer becomes a critical component for emergency care and treatment.

For example, when critically ill patients are transferred from one hospital emergency department to another, it’s common for information to be delayed or, even, to go missing. With the ability to import data containing the patient’s diagnostic medical images via PACS/RIS, hospitals may be able to significantly reduce unnecessary medical imaging tests, some of which would expose patients to radiation unnecessarily.

“One of the goals of our healthcare delivery system must be to provide access to diagnostic imaging results to all locations involved in a patient’s care, either through implementation of a universal electronic medical record, image repositories, or robust image transfer networks,” Dr. Sodickson said.

“But until those solutions reach maturity, ensuring that medical images can be downloaded from CDs in a standard, PACS-compatible format will help to streamline care, reduce costs and protect patients from unnecessary imaging exams.”

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