PACS and the iPad: Possibilities and Potential

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David Hirschorn, MDIt’s more than a truism to discuss mobile computing as the next horizon in the delivery of health care. Today, the achievements of such systems are measured in degrees of eventuality, rather than possibility; their potentials are gauged in whens, not ifs.

The landscape for such products, though, is far from conquered. In the imaging world, the next great barrier to overcome involves synchronizing the capabilities of mobile devices with the needs of the infrastructure that stores, transports, and accesses massive amounts of highly sensitive patient data.

The business case for such products revolves, in large part, around the convenience that it affords primary-care practitioners, according to David Hirschorn, MD, director of radiology informatics at Staten Island University Hospital in New York. “The hand that feeds us is an ordering clinician,” Hirschorn says, “and clinicians use personal and mobile devices. That’s how they want to see their patients’ data, and those include images.”

Patient-care Potential

Hirschorn says that mobile devices are the catalysts that will unlock patient access to their physicians’ expertise during after-hours diagnosis. Although there are a variety of electronic medical record applications in the marketplace that can afford them this convenience, ultimately, many physicians are bound to whatever product is supported at the hospitals where they have privileges—and in many cases, the driver of such purchases is meaningful-use reimbursement.

“What hospitals need is a good piece of imaging software that can access those records. They might have a portal for a Web-based PACS viewer and then have to find the patient all over again. There are many places that don’t even have a contextual link to the website, much less a mobile device. It’s not trivial, and it’s not simple to work that out,” he says.

Mark Prodonovich is product manager for the iCRco-developed ClarityPACS solution, which offers mobile access via iClarity. In such environments, he says, purchasers prefer a clean and intuitive user interface that makes it easy for specialists to consider patient results in a variety of environments and to gather information quickly about the severity of a case.

“Originally iClarity was designed for physicians to have mobile access to their environment,” Prodonovich says. “When physicians are off the premises—if they go home, and something comes across on the imaging side—they can use it to determine whether they need to come to the hospital. That coordinates advanced workflow, and the future of this goes even beyond what we’re doing today.”

From the perspective of accelerated patient care, the business case for mobile clinical technology is couched in its potential to improve provider response time dramatically— which, in turn, improves billing cycles, Prodonovich says. Mobile technology also helps improve patients’ access to their own information, while reducing the overall expense of installing major workstations in every room at a given facility. Instead of bringing a patient over to a computer to view a study, it’s much simpler to hand him or her a tablet on which the image is displayed.

“Having these mobile devices for clinical review with patients has been a real driver for us,” Prodonovich says. “If you look at the new iPad, that image quality (when configured properly) is probably equal to that of a three-megapixel monitor.”

Trending Toward Mobility

Prodonovich grants that on a tablet, physicians are looking at a small screen; using a workstation’s 20-inch monitor, he says, “You can actually pull in more information and have a larger overview.” Nonetheless, he believes that physicians will be making diagnoses straight from mobile devices soon.

It also doesn’t hurt that many clinicians have a weakness for gadgetry—and tablet devices and smartphones are among the newest and most fun toys on the block. Prodonovich says that iClarity has helped him close more than a few deals for the iCRco ClarityPACS just because he introduced prospective clients to the mobile application at the top of his presentation.

“The feedback has been extraordinarily positive,” he says. “We’ve had environments where we made a PACS presentation, and physicians had their iPads in front of them and downloaded the app during the sales presentation. That helped solidify a deal. There is zero learning curve; it’s just a very efficient tool.”

As intuitive as iClarity is to operate, its chief value proposition