Hospitals pilot AT&T's new cloud-based medical imaging

Healthcare heavyweights Baptist Health System in Alabama and Henry Ford Health System in Michigan are piloting a new AT&T cloud-based imaging storage and retrieval system.

The hospitals will be using the Medical Imaging and Information Management Service in different ways: Baptist wants an easier method to manage its more than 2 million existing images, and the 30,000 new images that are created each month, Richard Shirey, Baptist's CIO said in a press release. Henry Ford, on the other hand, is starting a little smaller, testing storage of its cardiology medical imaging studies, and providing access to cardiologists across its four hospitals and at least seven satellite facilities, Kevin Yee, administrator of the Edith and Benson Ford Heart & Vascular Institute tells FierceMobileHealthcare.

The Ford pilot started in mid-June and is set to run for six months, Yee says. It's designed to replaced hard-disk storage for the hospitals 2,000-plus non-invasive cardiac studies, and 250-plus Cath lab studies each month. Traditionally, the health system has stored its cardiac images on servers equipped with terabyte disks. However, most of the Cath-lab files are films, which take up multiple times the file space of static images, he notes. As such, the hospital was burning through multiple disks per year--an expensive proposition, according to Yee.

One of the other big values for the cloud-based storage option is that it offers automatic backups at multiple sites, something Henry Ford had to contract with multiple back-up vendors for in the past, Yee says.

Now, Ford physicians will be able to access images from desktops, laptops, and tablets. The IT department is working on distributing iPads to the participating cardiologists for just this purpose, but probably won't employ smartphones for much because the screens are too small and low-res for clinical analysis, Yee says.

If successful, Yee believes, the pilot should next roll out to radiology, and eventually the health system at large.

The system is the first product born of AT&T's partnership with medical imaging company Acuo Technologies. AT&T officials say the Acuo platform is vendor-neutral, and will allow images to be uploaded from virtually any PACS or other imaging system, and downloaded to any device--desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc. For example, Ford will use the system to provide single-source access to its two separate cardiac imaging systems--one for non-invasive studies (ECHO, etc.), and the other for Cath lab images.

Medical imaging is a crucial market for AT&T's new ForHealth division, according to assistant vice president of AT&T ForHealth Solutions Randall Porter. In a conversation with Porter prior to HIMSS11 in February, he projected "explosive" growth in imaging technology, with an estimated 1 billion images being created in the coming year.

On a related front, AT&T also announced it will provide wireless connectivity for the Zephyr bioharness. The bioharness monitors a patient's vital signs, including breathing rate, BP, pulse and other indicators. Previous incarnations of the product have required smartphone or other wireless devices to transmit the bioharness' data readings. The new iteration will have a wireless device embedded directly in it.

AT&T officials see the initial market for the device among military medics, athletes, cardiologists and emergency responders.

To learn more:
- check out AT&T's press release
- read more at Information Management Online
- get more detail from this February TMCnet piece on AT&T and Acuo

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