Patient-controlled image-sharing network could better protect privacy

A new scientific study validates the workability of a digital medical-imaging sharing system controlled by patients, not providers.

The study looked at an open-source prototype of the Patient Controlled Access-key REgistry (PCARE), according to an abstract published online Aug. 11 by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The authors note that the current image-sharing method of patients hand-carrying CDs puts a burden on patients, while digital sharing networks coordinated by medical organizations challenge patient privacy. The PCARE prototype includes a central patient portal allowing patients to manage the access keys.

 The same framework can be used for a longitudinal virtual electronic health record, the authors said in the study, "Patient-controlled Sharing of Medical Imaging Data across Unaffiliated Healthcare Organizations."

The authors concluded the framework protects patient privacy with "minimal burden" on patients, providers and infrastructure.

In April five prominent academic medical centers announced a program allowing patients to move radiological images from a cloud-based server to their personal health records. The study was the first phase of a three-phase trial conducted by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Image Share project.

And in November 2011 the National Institutes of Health issued a $2.25 million grant to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Heart Imaging Technologies to develop technology facilitating the inclusion of images in the Nationwide Health Information Network.

According to Heart IT, 75 percent of all imaging procedures are performed at clinics lacking a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), the first step in being able to share digital images. The NIH grant funded development of a prototype offering PACS capability via a Software-as-a-Service model allowing any Web browser to function as a medical imaging workstation without having to install client software, according to an announcement at the time from Heart IT.

Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University also is involved in a collaborative effort with Harris Corp., VMware and Intel to create a medical imaging mega-cloud.

To learn more:
- read the abstract