RSNA's Image Share project scores additional funding

CHICAGO—The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has received a contract from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) that provides support to expand the NIBIB-funded pilot project that created the RSNA Image Share network. The contract provides two years of support at $5.3 million and two additional option years at $5.5 million.

The pilot was launched in 2009 to build a patient-centric medical image sharing network. The Image Share network is based on common open-standards architecture and enables patients to control access to their information through personal health records (PHR), without relying on CDs. Images and reports are sent from the participating sites to an Internet-based image repository, called the Image Clearinghouse.

Patients are instructed how to establish PHR accounts and retrieve their images from those accounts. They use their PHR accounts to maintain and share their images with selected providers, creating a detailed medical history accessible through any secure Internet connection.

The Image Share network currently includes five sites: Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, University of California, San Francisco, University of Chicago Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The network has been used by more than 2,000 patients since it began operations in 2011. More than 20 additional sites have expressed their intention to join the network and are in various stages of implementation.

The new contract provides for continued expansion of the network. Over the next four years, 40 additional sites are expected to be added to the network, using a computer system called the Edge Server that was developed under the pilot project to connect their local radiology systems to the network. The entire Philadelphia metropolitan area will be one focus of expansion, as will the Central Alabama Health Information Exchange, according to an RSNA statement.

In addition to the patient-controlled model, the new funding will enable the network to support provider-to-provider exchange of information with patient consent, so that participating sites can use it for consult or emergency cases. The capabilities of the network also will be expanded to support exchange of images for multi-site imaging research. The contract funds will be used to improve the efficiency of image exchange by using streaming technologies and promoting refinements to standards for medical imaging data, RSNA said.

Finally, the new contract provides funding for pilot projects that make use of the data gathered by Edge Servers at the participating sites for decision support, effectiveness research and other data mining applications.

RSNA Image Share is based upon the XDS profile of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), an initiative among medical leaders, software developers, medical societies and vendors to improve communication among healthcare equipment, systems and software. The goal is to move closer to a universal EHR and help physicians meet federal Meaningful Use requirements in practice.