Digital imaging could be a catalyst for HIE, PHR adoption

Mention health information exchange to Dr. Elliot Menschik and he'll immediately ask a question: "Where's the business model? That's been the Achilles' heel of HIEs." And it has. Whether you call them regional health information organizations (RHIOs), community health information networks (CHINs) or the current term of choice, HIEs, dozens if not hundreds have shut down after the seed money dried up, many without ever transmitting a single byte of clinical data.

But Menschik, founder of Philadelphia-based HIE firm HxTechnologies, which payer-centric care management firm MEDecision acquired earlier this year, was at the Radiological Society of North America's annual symposium in Chicago this week, dutifully demonstrating HIE at the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise booth. That's because he believes that imaging is a great place to build HIE around. Why? because PACS has achieved the kind of market penetration that EMRs can only wish for, meaning that there's a lot more imaging information in digital form than there is clinical documentation.

"The patient doesn't need to be transferred any more in many cases," Menschik tells FierceEMR, since HIE allows referring physicians to view digital images without the patient needing to bring films back to the doctor's office. And specialists don't need to order duplicate tests. "When the patient does need to be transferred, the data is sent electronically," Menschik adds, and often there is a web portal available for the referring doctor to view an X-ray, MRI or CT scan.

Menschik even believes digital imaging is a way to break down resistance to personal health records because image-centric PHRs actually can have value to physicians, whereas doctors tend not to trust or take the time to look at PHRs created by payers or patients. He noted that RSNA recently received a $4.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create a pilot network for medical imaging exchange.

For more on the NIH grant:
- see this RSNA press release