$2.25M grant helps Hopkins, vendor put medical images on NHIN

Johns Hopkins University and Heart Imaging Technologies (Heart IT), a Picture Archiving Communications Systems (PACS) vendor that makes a product enabling web-based access to medical images, have received a $2.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The recipients will use the NIH funds to develop a method of viewing medical images on the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).

Seventy-five percent of imaging exams are performed outside of hospitals and PACS is rare in the ambulatory-care environment because of cost. Consequently, many physicians find it difficult to gain online access to diagnostic-quality images when they need them.

Heart IT's WebPAX solution offers PACS capability through a "software-as-a-service" model that allows clinicians to view images using standard web browsers and without having to install client software. The viewer can be launched within an electronic health record, and can access images stored in the cloud or in an individual hospital's PACS.

The NHIN is still being used mainly by government agencies. However, there have been two breakthroughs in connecting healthcare providers to the NHIN in the past year. First, a private-public consortium launched the Direct Project, a NHIN-compatible secure messaging protocol for pushing data from one provider to another. Also, seven states, eight electronic health record vendors, and three vendors of health information exchanges recently announced they were working on standards for exchanging health information that would be compatible with NHIN.

If medical images could be made available through the NHIN, it would give physicians a reason to go on the network, improving the odds that other parties would link to the NHIN.

To learn more:
- read the announcement of the NIH grant
- see this press release from June about WebPAX