Why the cloud is imperative to image sharing

As new payment models increase physician accountability, cloud-based technology for sharing resources such as patient images will become an absolute necessity, according to Keith Hentel, executive vice chairman in the department of radiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"In today's fee-for-service model, imaging practices don't really benefit financially from the use of cloud technology because we're not doing as many scans," said Hentel (pictured), whose facility embraced the cloud more than four years ago. "But as we move into an accountable care model, things will completely change. Physicians won't have the luxury of being able to perform unnecessary tests."

In an exclusive interview with FierceMedicalImaging, Hentel discusses New York-Presbyterian's adoption of cloud technology, why physicians love it, and how it can improve doctor-patient relationships.

FierceMedicalImaging: How is your facility using cloud technology?

Hentel: We use it both to get information out of our practice and to get information into our practice. Getting information into our practice was a no-brainer. We started doing that for trauma patients, patients that needed to be transferred into our institution to one, expedite care; and two, eliminate any repeat imaging that we needed to do, which was just wasteful.

FMI: What was the image-sharing process like prior to the cloud?

Hentel: For patients who were transferred out, we would create CDs and tape them to a patient's chart. For incoming patients, we would have to wait for them to physically show up to evaluate their imaging.

Conversely, when it's in the cloud, the minute they decide to start sharing those images with you, you can start reviewing files and get a sense of what's wrong with a patient. You can get a sense if you're the right institution to transfer the patient to; if you have the expertise to deal with their problem. Having images available in the cloud has really streamlined our processes.

FMI: How else has your workflow been streamlined?

Hentel: On the outpatient side, making the reports and images available in the cloud as opposed to mailing them and having messengers deliver them has reduced the need for me to hire full-time employees to do that. That's been a real benefit, so much so that when we recently opened up a new practice in a new location, I didn't dedicate any full-time employees to be messengers for that area. We do almost all of our distribution of reports and images at that site electronically, through the cloud.

FMI: Are physicians able to access the images via mobile devices?

Hentel: They are and they like it. We're not at 100 percent compliance with all of the different operating systems that are out there, but the iPad does work.

From an ergonomics perspective, using a mobile device is a much more comfortable interaction for a surgeon or a physician who's talking to a patient then moving that patient over from the examination table to a computer. You can bring a tablet right up to a patient while they're sitting on the table. That doesn't have any cost implications, but it's just a much nicer process for delivering care.

FMI: What other benefits do you foresee?

Hentel: This will help to make information available to payers more easily, which will be another way to eliminate unnecessary imaging, as well. Right now, if you think about it, payers pretty much rely on claims data to make decisions, which can lag by days or weeks.

FMI: What feedback have you received from providers?

Hentel: Every provider that gets initiated to the technology wants more and more of it for their practice. They love it.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for content and clarity.