RSNA image sharing project gives patients control of images

Five prominent academic medical centers across the U.S. announced they've launched a program that allows 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.

Among the institutions participating in the research are Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, University of California San Francisco Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Mount Sinai, the first site to go live in August 2011, has 190 patients enrolled in the project. Altogether, 600 patients are participating.

To use RSNA Image Share, patients create an account and password and then are given access to import their images and reports into the personal health record. The data remains encrypted from the time it leaves the server at each radiology site until it arrives in the PHR.

In phase 2 of the trial, patients will be able to share their images without first uploading them to a PHR. In phase 3, the imaging data will be de-identified and made available for clinical trials.

The real goal of giving patients access to cloud-based images, however, is to improve the quality of care and reduce potential harm to patients. David Mendelson, M.D., chief of clinical informatics at Mount Sinai, said in the announcement, "[Image sharing] gives the patient ownership over their records and makes the information more accessible to physicians. Plus it decreases unnecessary radiation exposure that can be caused by physicians ordering duplicate examinations due to records not being easily available."

More and more hospitals are moving toward storage of their images in the cloud, partly because of cost savings. But up to now, physicians have been the chief beneficiaries of image sharing, which makes it easier for them to access and view images from other facilities. The main advantage to patients has been that they don't have to carry around physical media such as CDs or portable drives that contain their images.

Less than 10 percent of patients use PHRs, so storing images in them might not greatly improve this situation. But the ability of patients to share images directly with their providers could reduce the number of redundant imaging tests.

To learn more:
- read the Mount Sinai announcement

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