Merge network to enable online medical image sharing

Merge Healthcare, a provider of enterprise imaging and interoperability solutions, has announced its plan to launch a free, cloud-based network for sharing medical images among providers. The official launch of the Merge Honeycomb service will take place in November.

Dell will host Honeycomb through its Unified Clinical Archive solution, which manages about 4 billion images for healthcare organizations. 

Merge, whose core business is image archiving, already gives its customers the ability to share images from a variety of different picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). But the new network is open to anyone, whether or not they are Merge clients. This interoperability will allow radiologists and referring physicians to view and download images generated in any location on any system, if they have been uploaded to the Merge Honeycomb network.

"With Merge Honeycomb, we're harnessing the cloud in a way that encourages and enables faster collaboration among all healthcare stakeholders, resulting in a true improvement in the delivery of care and reduction of costs," Jeff Surges, CEO of Merge Healthcare, said in a press release. "With the largest network of imaging clients by far, Merge is taking this important step to connect the healthcare industry and expand interoperability."

Merge points out that Honeycomb will eliminate the need for patients to carry CDs containing their images from one facility to another. And, because providers will have instant access to images on the network, the need for duplicative tests will be reduced. This, in turn, will reduce unnecessary exposures of patients to radiation.

Radiologists also can save money by using the Honeycomb network to share images, the company states. According to a Merge fact sheet, "A single-clinician practice spends, on average, $17,160 per year associated with the current method of exchanging patients' health information."

Of course, the fact sheet doesn't mention the amount of money that providers would lose by doing fewer redundant tests under the current reimbursement system. If these tests cost $35 billion a year, as Merge asserts, that's a big chunk of change that won't be going to physicians and hospitals. 

To learn more:
- read the Merge press release
- see the fact sheet on Honeycomb 

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