Editor's Column: For Your Eyes Only

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hiit040409.jpgWe live in a very mobile world. We don't survive long without our mobile phones, PDAs, notebook computers, tablet PCs and iPods. And tech-savvy physicians are joining in, too.

Radiologists, cardiologists and myriad specialists who need access to images now can have them thanks to some pretty neat software that enables wireless viewing of images on tablets PCs, PDAs and iPods. This month we're taking a closer look at how clinicians are accessing images for more efficient, timely diagnosis in "Images ... Coming Soon to a Handheld Near You."

Tablet PCs typically have 20 to 80 GB of hard drive space and are used most often to access and review images, circle areas of interest for the patient or another clinician or show endoscopy video. iPods can hold 60 to 80 GB to store screen resolution images for quick view or full resolution images that can be upload to another system (40 percent of physicians us iPods). PDA's only offer about 65 MB of storage — so usage is limited now but will grow significantly over the next two to three years.

About 50 to 60 percent of physicians utilize PDAs. They're used as an instant reference tool (drug/clinical interactions and treatment guidelines) as well as for managing schedules and communicating. Charge capture and eprescribing usage is only about 10 to 15 percent.

While it isn't known how many physicians are making use of PDAs to view images — for sure we're seeing a convergence of influences driving up PDA usage, such as high use among physicians, med school mandates (28 percent of med schools require PDA use) that make new MDs already comfortable with the technology, as well as support from the payor community for PDAs. The ways to view images will get more diverse — even over the next year it is expected that Apple will roll out an Apple iPod smartphone, while Microsoft has hinted at a similar device.

Future innovation will branch into accessing EMR information, integrating with group practice IT systems, further supporting evidence-based medicine and test-results reporting. Screen size and resolution issues will be solved, too.

Handhelds are becoming essential tools of healthcare. But, what will increase the push? Applications must be easy to use and perceived as improving the physician's workflow and revenue stream.

Things come full circle — ease of use is the No. 1 reason why we buy a technology, as you'll see in the introduction to this month's special section "Choosing the Right PACS," of which the handheld story is a part. After all, PACS is where the images live.

Lessons Learned

Have you taken a close look at digital radiography systems lately? Get the low down on all the automated features and robotics for exact patient positioning and image acquisition that clearly streamline workflow.
Digital Radiography Adds an Extra Dose of Efficiency

Cardiac SPECT is a healthcare bargain — with studies indicating hospitals can save nearly $1,000 per patient by having it because ER patients with chest pain can be sent home safely while others can be admitted to a lower-intensity bed.
Cardiac SPECT Maintaining Its Niche: A Technology in Evolution

Among the advice experienced PACS users give for choosing a replacement system are getting radiologists involved in the decision-making process, insisting the system conforms to Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) and don't overlook your current vendor.
Changing PACS Vendors: Getting It Right the Second Time Around for Radiology and the Enterprise

Open architecture and working with flexible, responsive vendors are key to PACS success for imaging centers, small and medium-sized hospitals.
PACS Customized & Configured for the Imaging Center and Small Hospital