Mobile opportunities in imaging

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 - Doctor with iPad

The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets has transformed the way physicians can access healthcare information, including imaging. Vendors have tried to step up to the plate by offering myriad solutions to display data on mobile devices, but providers and their vendor partners would be wise to not lose focus on workflows.

Today’s mobile devices have the technological ability to display medical images anywhere at anytime, and providers have attempted to answer the question of how best to use this new ability. Studies published in recent years have shown handheld devices have the potential to aid physicians in emergency radiology and that the iPad could be an adequate image display during American Board of Radiology examinations.

However, simply enabling image display on a mobile device isn’t enough. Vendors also must think about the ultimate goal of such capabilities, according to Tomer Levy, GM of McKesson Workflow and Infrastructure Solutions.

“[Vendors] focus more on the technological challenge of how to present the image on the mobile device and less about the workflow and what exactly do we try to achieve when we the clinician opens the mobile device,” says Levy.

McKesson’s experience in the cardiology space underscores Levy’s point. An early test of displaying cardiology images on a mobile device initially had physicians at the pilot hospital excited. However, Levy says that when the company followed up with the pilot site, they found few people were using the application, thanks largely in part to a lack of fit within the cardiologist workflow. There were very limited scenarios where a physician would need to open cardiology images on the go and not need the greater functionality offered by a full desktop workstation.

It prompted a rethinking of what a mobile app should focus on, and Levy says it led to the creation of an app designed with emergency ECG cases in mind. “You need immediate interaction with the physician and we started to focus on that and design workflows that could leverage mobility,” he says.

The result was McKesson Cardiology™ ECG Mobile, which offers push notifications for STAT ECGs, allows users to view the full 10 seconds of a 12-lead ECG, and compares a patient’s current procedure to previous ECG’s in a side-by-side layout.

Levy says this same dedication to solving specific problems should drive development of future medical imaging apps. One example could be an app that serves as an educational resource that physicians can use to educate patients and their families about their conditions. Other mobility-oriented scenarios could involve thinking of a tablet computer as the connection point to a provider’s information system, but then having the ability to push images wirelessly to larger external monitors in the environment.

There continues to be great potential for imaging on mobile devices, but as stakeholders explore the limits of the technology, it will be important to keep the end goal in mind.