Empowering Patients Through Mobile Enterprise Imaging Access

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Mark GellerWhen the team of radiologists, referring physicians, and IT professionals at Nyack Hospital in Nyack, New York, began beta testing a new enterprise imaging viewer, their primary interest was in its mobile platform compatibility. “For us, it’s about making our physician customers happy,” says Mark Geller, MD, a Nyack Hospital radiologist. “We want to make sure that they have access to images and reports wherever they are, as long as they have a device that can connect to the internet. It lifts the impediments of devices and time—they can care for their patients 24/7.”

Geller explains that Nyack’s physicians are “all very connected—they want access to data when they want it, on the device of their choice.” Most of the physicians are now using tablets, and almost all are using smart phones, he says, and his experience reflects data shared by Paul Nagy, PhD, at RNSA 2012, who noted in a session that 60% of physicians are now using iPads, and 70% are using iPhones. “Touch screens and tablets are increasingly an indispensable part of every physician’s toolkit,” Geller says.

Bits and Bytes

For Nyack’s physicians, mobile devices have allowed a rapid evolution in workflow and patient consultation. In beta testing the new viewer, Geller and colleagues made it available to physicians. “We had them use it and give us their feedback,” he says.

Features such as new touch gestures, pre-set windowing and leveling, and customization of the order in which tools were displayed, as well as the addition of native application functions, are part of the viewer’s capabilities. “The touch features that users have come to expect in a touch-screen device—for instance, pinching to change the size of an image—are incorporated into the viewer, so it’s very intuitive,” Geller says.

The viewer is a thin-client, Web-based application that is device- and platform-agnostic, making it relatively unique in the marketplace, Geller notes. “As far as I know, there isn’t too much out there that is equivalent,” he says. “So many platforms aren’t Apple-compatible, or can’t be used on a mobile device. This works on any device or operating system.” No information is ever resident on any device, he adds—nothing is ever downloaded. “The data live in the cloud,” he says. “As soon as the application is closed, you no longer have access to any patient information.”

Evolving Care Paradigm

The new viewer is in the final stages of beta testing and will be rolled out to Nyack Hospital’s physicians this spring, Geller says. Clinicians at the hospital are enthused about the shifts in the care paradigm the mobile viewer will make possible. “There is a real thirst for this technology,” he says. “Especially for physicians who are really busy and cover multiple facilities, this is liberating. They are finally untethered.”

Continual access to images and reports irrespective of location is a key benefit of the mobile viewer, but it is far from the only positive change expected at Nyack, Geller says. “When physicians go around to their patients, they will be able to show them exactly what they’re talking about,” he says. “They’ll have everything they need on a device right in their pocket.”

This will empower patients to be more active and engaged participants in their own care, Geller concludes. “It gives patients a better understanding of what the doctor is talking about, and they are made to feel like a more meaningful part of the decision-making as a result,” he says. “When patients are educated and have had input on the care process, they are much more receptive to treatment.”

Cat Vasko is editor of HealthIT Executive Forum.