Medical imaging technology, such as x-rays and ultrasounds, has improved drastically in recent decades. This technology is crucial at most levels of healthcare for diagnosing and documenting illnesses, as well as improving processes and recommendations for treatment. Safe, effective medical imaging technology is necessary for medical decision-making and the reduction of costs and labor inherent to treatment and preventative care.
One of the most important advancements in medical imaging is the increased use of effective medial image exchange/interoperability, or the ability to store and transfer patients’ digital images for more effective future care. The benefits of medical image interoperability are abundant and include cost efficiency for providers, better patient health outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction.
Costs inherent to medical imaging processes account for 10% of total annual healthcare costs in the United States. Because of its utility across all levels of healthcare, the costly process of imaging is susceptible to unnecessary duplication. An estimated 30+% of imaging is unnecessary, adding roughly $30 billion to annual U.S. healthcare costs. Using effective image exchange increases the cross-functionality and sharing of past images, decreasing the cost and labor needed to duplicate existing results. Effectively exchanging even the 12.8% of repeated advanced images, such as from MRI or CT exams, could account for nearly half of the estimated cost savings.
The proper exchange of images allows providers to make quicker and more informed decisions, leading to healthier patients and increased care center efficiency. The easily-accessible comparison of past and present images gives providers a better understanding of patient history and the effectiveness of past treatments. Additionally, eradicating unnecessary imaging repeats reduces patients’ exposure to radiation. Perhaps the most important benefit is speed; the patient experiences faster care without unnecessary referrals blocking the path to treatment. For trauma patients, a lack of access to outside imaging can cause up to a 25-minute delay in treatment. For many trauma patients, effective image interoperability is lifesaving.
Effective image exchange makes the patient experience more enjoyable by decreasing the amount of time spent in referrals or awaiting proper treatment. Patients avoid extra visits , meaning excessive copays and transportation costs, and patient/provider trust and positive attitudes increase when a care provider is well-informed of prior treatment. Additionally, electronic data and telemedicine allow patients to feel engaged with their care provider without additional inherent costs.