Maine announces nation's first statewide medical image archive

The archive, which can hold 1.8 million images a year, will allow physicians throughout the state to share patients' medical images

Maine's health information exchange (HIE) today announced it is piloting what is said to be the nation's first statewide medical imaging archive, giving physicians access to patient X-rays, MRIs and other images regardless of their location.

Maine's statewide exchange, HealthInfoNet, currently serves a million of the state's 1.3 million residents in sharing some form of electronic medical record (EMR) information between healthcare providers. The new medical imagery archive will be hosted on a separate public cloud infrastructure, provided by Dell.

Todd Rogow, director of information technology at Maine's HealthInfoNet, said the five-month pilot will involve about 200TB of storage. Each year, Maine healthcare providers produce 1.8 million medical images, which represent 45TB of data. The images include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and mammograms.

"The typical radiology image is 50MB in size. And, we're talking about bringing over all the archives," he said. The image archive will share data between 56 radiology imaging centers, which make up 80% of the state's volume, Rodow added.

Currently, medical images are stored in a number of disparate picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) within the hospitals. Today, when there's a need to share the images between non-affiliated hospitals and private physician practices, they're typically copied to CDs.

By consolidating these images into a single archive, HealthInfoNet estimates that Maine's providers stand to save $6 million over seven years through reduced storage and transport costs. It also greatly reduces system administration requirements at each hospital.

"When a patient has an X-ray or MRI at a facility outside the our system, it can take days for their doctor at Maine Medical Center, for example, to get a copy of that image," said Dr. Barry Blumenfeld, CIO at MaineHealth healthcare system, which supports the project and participated in its design.

"This new service will save time for our providers and their patients. With instant access to a patient's images, medical staff can treat them much faster and the patient won't have to take the time to pick up and deliver CDs," he said.

Dell hosts medical images in one of two public cloud storage facilities in Connecticut and Arizona. While it hosts medical images from other states, those mainly involve hospital groups and regional health information organizations (RHIOs), which represent a handful of providers who've signed up to exchange data.

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