They may seem like part of the woodwork, but CD and DVD technology remains a vital tool for any healthcare facility managing and needing to communicate large amounts of medical images and patient information. The technology is fairly simple compared to some of the complicated health information technologies now put to work at many facilities, but that doesn’t make it any less crucial. CD and DVD burners can provide a cost-saving means to share images and information with referring physicians, patients, and inside departments. The systems provide a valuable data back-up in case of technology failures, and also aid facilities in HIPAA compliance. Not least of all, big money can be saved on film and other costs.
Health Imaging & IT visited with two different facilities using state-of-the-art CD/DVD recorder technology to see how they are making the technology work for them.
Lehigh Valley Hospital — Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa., uses a variety of Sorna CD and CD/DVD recorders as tools for providing referring physicians — and in some cases patients — with images and reports. They use all of Sorna’s eXpedo units including the 5i (1 CDR and DVR), 26i (2 CDR and DVR), 10t (1 CDR and DVR), 20t (1 or 2 CDR and DVR), and 15t (2 CDR). The facility processes images from multiple modalities and specialties, including CR, CT, PET, MR, nuclear medicine, and interventional radiology.
The Sorna eXpedo technology provides the hospital’s radiology administration with an intelligent way to manage the data they need to place on the media by managing it by series, patient, or image levels.
“We have a 64-slice scanner that can take up to 5,000 images [per study]. Not all of the images will fit onto a single CD. If the exam is too large, the software will burn the remaining images onto a second CD. If a study is 1.2 Gigabits (GB) you know you’re going to need two CDs,” says Joseph Beck, PACS administrator. He adds that since the size of some of the CT scans are quite large, a DVD burner would be the best solution.
In an ideal world, only one type of media and burner would be required. As common as DVDs are however, most physicians do not have the technology to make use of them in their offices. To accommodate different needs and preferences, Beck says his department maintains a list of physicians who can accept CDs or DVDs.
Additionally, in the hospital setting they use the burners to give patients a CD of their images to take to their physician. “For some OR cases we will burn specific images for the surgeon when a PACS workstation is not available to view the images from the network,” adds Beck.
A small way to save big
Instead of handing out film to referring physicians at roughly $2.00 a pop, the Diagnostic Imaging department at Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City, Ore., invested in the PacsCube Software Suite CD burner system from DatCard Systems.
“It’s been huge success for us,” says John Hart, PACS administrator. Instead of film “we have CDs that cost roughly 32 cents each. So, our cost savings are about $1,200 a month.” Hart adds, however, that some physicians do still request film.
The facility performs about 60,000 imaging procedures a year of all modalities including digital mammography, MRI, CT, ultrasound, digital fluoroscopy, DR, CR, and nuclear medicine.
Other than just saving a lot of money, the DatCard system works as a stand-alone mini-PACS which means that the department is able to review cases on the PacsCube device if their PACS goes down. So, it’s also essentially a downtime, disaster recovery contingency plan, says Hart.
The CD burner also packs in other headache-saving functionality, with an HL7 (Health Level 7) demographic interface that prints onto the disc the patient information and the facility name. This can alleviate major problems that can be caused by CDs being wrongly labeled.
Also, the system has an audit trail for HIPAA compliancy. “I can go through and see who burned what record and sent it to what physician at what time — all available on an audit tally,” says Hart. There also is a function that makes the CDs anonymous for instances where a study might be used for teaching purposes or training.
To be useful, CDs need to be easy to use for physicians. to do just this, Willamette Falls worked with DatCard to develop a special CD jacket that explains to doctors how to use the navigation tools within the applet contained on each CD. “Once the referring physicians learn how to use the tools the majority want CDs,” says Hart.
CD and DVD storage technology provides a simple way to rid a healthcare facility of expensive film costs. The latest, most advanced systems can also act as back-up systems in the case of a PACS failure, and also help alleviate regulatory headaches by simplifying the tracking of technology usage and data movement.