Cloud Considerations for Radiology Practices
To better understand the benefits of a cloud-based solution for radiology, consider the ability to have instant access to exams, and the potential benefit of having a specialist always available. One example would be a car accident that occurs during the early morning hours in a rural area. If the local hospital does not have a radiologist on site at all hours, the staff can call an off-site radiologist and give them access to their cloud-based PACS solution. This allows them to quickly gain information so they can either proceed with immediate treatment or call for transportation to a larger facility. The diagnostic process can be shortened so that critical patient care can begin quicker.
Cloud-based PACS systems enable practices to grant system access on-the-fly, allowing one physician to quickly communicate with a colleague in order to review time-sensitive images. In the car accident example, such speed and flexibility can quickly help the physician determine if the patient needs immediate treatment or not.
The right Cloud solution puts the practice’s entire workflow into the cloud. Geography and the time of day are removed as constraints, allowing patients to always receive the best level of care. This availability to multiple specialists who can access the system from any internet-enabled device does, of course, raise security concerns. For practices that choose a stand-alone EHR or PACS product that is bundled with a cloud service for web access, the security between the end user and the cloud hosting company needs to be thoroughly reviewed. IT and administrators at the practice should be wary of the partnering cloud provider and ask detailed questions about security protections, breach responses, and who is ultimately responsible for the security of HIPAA information.
A cloud-based PACS solution means the practice no longer needs to connect to an onsite server or worry about complex setups such as VPNs. This promotes better image sharing and personal care and also enables the practice to be closer to the longer-term goal of implementing a 100 percent electronic records practice. It’s also the perfect solution for multiple location practices, or those that read images for multiple institutions.
Cloud solutions are the ideal fit for practices that need to manage expenses and can benefit from a pay-per-usage plan that is dynamically scalable to meet growing or falling demand. Digital radiology images that need to be archived for years require a considerable amount of space, and the right cloud provider can offer any amount of needed space at the right price point. Cloud services can reduce capital investments in both ongoing maintenance and server equipment, and related IT staff needed to keep those systems running. Such savings can be substantial, especially over the longer term as the costs of cloud storage continue to decline.
Truly web-based solutions will utilize an image viewer that is a web-written application and runs on any computer. There is not a need for high-powered diagnostic workstations, or the need for special in-system hardware that is running locally. Placing data on the cloud is not worthwhile if it comes with restrictions in terms of how staff actually access and use the data.