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X-rays are something we take for granted as part of standard medical care, so it may come as a surprise to learn that they were invented by accident. As Columbia Surgery explained, in 1895, a German professor of physics named Wilhelm Röntgen discovered a particular light could pass through most substances and show shadows of solid objects, like bone. From there, the X-ray as we know it was used to discover bullets and broken bones in human bodies.

Over a century later, medical imaging (like the rest of healthcare) has become much more advanced and powerful. Modern radiology helps physicians diagnose more patients with non-invasive procedures, and new technology means it’s easier than ever to share imagery.

However, just because a medical image can be shared with other physicians doesn’t mean it’s truly interoperable. For medical practices and Clinically Integrated Networks (CINs) that are striving for an improved patient care experience, radiology and imaging capabilities must be integrated. Let’s explore what makes an image fully interoperable.

4 qualities of an interoperable medical image

Interoperability in healthcare refers to how a variety of information systems and devices are connected across different physical locations. For practices with multiple offices and CINs, the integration of systems and equipment without boundaries is essential to provide their patients with seamless, quality care.

This is especially important when it comes to medical imaging. X-rays and other images like CT scans are a critical part of a patient’s medical history and they help physicians make diagnoses and develop care plans. That’s why it’s essential for medical images to be easily shared among providers. Here are qualities your medical images must have in order to be fully interoperable:

Connectivity
The foundation of an interoperable image is that it is connected to the host’s EMR. This ensures the image can be shared with those using the EMR and added to patient records. Connectivity makes it possible for physicians and different specialists to quickly pull up a patient’s medical image to make a diagnosis or check on progress. This promotes a seamless care experience and promotes collaborative healthcare.

Accessibility
Just because imaging systems are connected to the EMR doesn’t always mean the images themselves are easily accessible. As EHR Intelligence explained, patient data access is the key to improving interoperability. Not only should physicians across different departments and locations be able to retrieve this information, the patients should as well. This empowers them to take charge of their health and feel in control of their personal information.

Security
Even though interoperable images must be accessible, they should also be secure. After all, this is the personal medical history of a patient that they would not want exploited. Furthermore, the average cost of a healthcare data breach in 2020 is up to $7.13 million, according to Fierce Healthcare. It’s important that medical images and other patient and practice information remain protected behind firewalls and strong passwords.

Scalability
Finally, medical imaging systems should be scalable. As the needs of the practice change and new technology becomes available, medical imaging should still seamlessly operate so there are no disruptions to patient care.

Benefits of medical image interoperability

Interoperability of a medical image is now a critical challenge for maximizing patient care. In a report issued by the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, experts stated that part of the ongoing effort to continue to improve patient outcomes ultimately revolves around making sure radiology and imaging capabilities are as current and well-integrated as possible.

Additionally, consumers are demanding more control over their healthcare, and integrated systems allow them to quickly and easily interact with physicians and review their records. At the same time, providers benefit from faster imaging, a reduction of duplicate radiology procedures and improved productivity.

Medical imaging, when necessary, is one of the most critical parts to patient care, but it’s also negatively impacted by human error. Lost or inaccurate images can delay an important diagnosis and means the patient must be exposed to more radiation for a duplicate procedure. Integrating them to be part of the core EMR mitigates these issues.

Integrating imaging can be affordable

Integrating these imaging capabilities into your healthcare system is surprisingly easy and affordable. Integration-as-a-Service (IaaS) helps providers and CINs quickly reap the benefits of an interoperable imaging system. They remove the barriers to healthcare data exchange through a structured process, making data sharing easier.

For X-rays, CT scan, ultrasounds, mammography and MRIs, IaaS is particularly important because these results must be shared and interpreted in real-time to create a care plan. Their various images and coding processes must be carefully recorded, which is tedious and time consuming to do manually.

Not only does integration make these processes faster, it’s also cost effective. Tangible Solutions offers a hub-and-spoke model that makes fielding requests and orders easy to complete. Contact our team today to learn more about integrating your internal systems with expert help.