Maine Becomes First State HIE to Exchange Medical Images

HealthInfoNet, the state-level health information exchange (HIE) for Maine, recently became the first statewide HIE in the nation to support medical image sharing such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, mammograms, and others.

HealthInfoNet plans to make this latest feature of their exchange available with the implementation of a statewide medical image archive, reducing the cost of electronic medical image storage and transport in the process, according to a press release.

“An estimated 1.8 million medical images (x-rays, mammograms, CT scans, MRIs etc…) are generated in Maine each year, totaling more than 45 terabytes of data,” according to a statement on the HealthInfoNet Web site. Participants in this new addition to Maine’s HIE services include 52 of the state’s imaging centers, collectively responsible for the generation of nearly 1.4 million medical images each year.

Previous to the implementation of the statewide archive, images were stored in several disparate electronic archives and often required non-affiliated providers to copy files to CDs in order to share them. The reduction in storage and transport costs that the new single archive will create could save Maine’s providers as much as $6 million over the next seven years, according to the HealthInfoNet Web site.

Additional benefits of the new image sharing program include those associated with more immediate provider access to past image testing results. With previous reports readily available, repeat tests are less likely, “meaning less cost and less radiation exposure for patients,” HealthInfoNet reported.

Each image will  be linked with a single patient identifier via the HealthInfoNet HIE Master Person Index, so that providers will be able to locate all of a patient’s prior images available through the archive when a more complete imaging history is required for better care.

After an extensive vetting process with Maine clinicians and health information technology professionals, HealthInfoNet decided to work with Dell on building the statewide archive. Dell has previous experience developing cloud-based medical archive systems, managing “one of the world’s largest cloud-based clinical archives through its Unified Clinical Archive solution,” HealthInfoNet states on their Web site.

While the project is currently in the pilot testing phase, HealthInfoNet, Dell, and participating providers will continue to work towards a final system design and full integration of the new archive with those currently in use, according to the Web site.

Full statewide implementation of the medical image archive is expected by 2013.

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