Reducing medical data silos is important for a number of reasons. If data is siloed and medical images can't be readily accessed where and when needed, staff members may spend valuable time searching for and sending them. That leaves providers with less time to care for patients. If an image must be retaken, healthcare costs will increase and the patient's radiation exposure will go up, which may lead to a reduction in quality of care and most likely harm patient satisfaction.

Data silos are a problem for health systems around the country. However, there are strategies available that can help healthcare teams eliminate medical data silos and access the images they need when and where they're needed.

1. Utilize Web-Based Access

One strategy to help eliminate medical data silos is by allowing web-based access to medical images. Web-based access allows healthcare specialists at separate facilities, referring physicians and other providers to view critical patient images from wherever they are. Physicians who have the information they need when they need it are better positioned to provide optimal care to their patients.

Reducing Medical Data SilosSoftware solutions that allow physicians to retrieve images anytime, anywhere via web-based solutions can help speed patients' diagnoses and treatment. For example, if a patient with heart disease from the Midwest is wintering in Florida and goes to the local ED with chest pain, having access to her latest CBC and ECG would be valuable to the healthcare team as they determine the best treatment.

2. Integrate Images with the EHR

Currently, many radiologists are challenged as they work back and forth between data silos at their organization. For example, after reviewing an MRI, radiologists have to leave their department's imaging system and go to a separate platform to access the EHR-based patient data that they need in order to complete the imaging study. This slows down their workflow, creates more steps to compile the data they need for a holistic view of the patient images they're interpreting and causes frustration.

Images that are integrated with the EHR, on the other hand, allow for a relevant subset of clinical data to be embedded into radiologists' imaging cockpits, saving them hours of time each week. Eliminating data silos via EHR integration also supports sharing images.

“With the significant rise in implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) into hospitals and outpatient practices, it will also benefit the patient if these images can be uploaded into their electronic health record so that it can be shared among different providers and institutions,” writes Kenton Fibel, MD, Imaging and Workflow Solutions consultant, McKesson.

3. Adopt a Vendor Neutral Archive

A vendor neutral archive also plays a part in helping organizations eliminate data silos. VNAs allow health organizations to archive and manage images independently of any PACS and vendor. Sharing image data between disparate systems (where permitted) and across multiple enterprises and regions helps provide increased access, better visibility and improved control of patient images.

For example, radiologists wouldn't need to readily access a breast cancer patient's mammogram from 1995 when they have images from 2012 and 2014. A VNA allows for older images to be stored on less expensive media. The newer studies, on the other hand, can be better utilized with a VNA's lifecycle management process. This process includes smart prefetching, hierarchical storage support and file purging of duplicate images.

This blog post originally published on McKesson's Medical Imaging Talk blog.

Joe Biegel

About the author

Joseph D. Biegel is vice president of Corporate Strategy and Business Development (CSBD) for McKesson Technology Solutions. Biegel is responsible for leading the strategy of the Imaging and Workflow Solutions (IWS) business of MTS. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in imaging science from the Rochester Institute of Technology and now serves on the academic advisory board of RIT’s Center for Imaging Science. In addition, Joe serves as Board Chairman of Imaging the World.