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Maine Creates Statewide Medical Image Archive

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HealthInfoNet, which is Maine’s health information exchange (HIE), is setting up what it says is the country’s first statewide medical image archive.

In a news release on Thursday, HealthInfoNet said the health care providers that are participating in the pilot program generate 1.4 million of the 1.8 million medical images created in Maine each year.

The archive will be cloud-based (using Dell servers) and is supposed to work with existing PACS systems. HealthInfoNet and its partners will spend the summer getting the archive up and running. The HIE said it expected to end the pilot phase in the fall and expand the service statewide by 2013.

HealthInfoNet estimated that the archive would save Maine’s health care providers $6 million over seven years because of reduced storage and transportation costs. Barry Blumenfeld, MD, chief information officer at MaineHealth, said money wasn’t all the archive would save:

When a patient has an X-ray or MRI at a facility outside our system, it can take days for their doctor at Maine Medical Center, for example, to get a copy of that image. 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.

MaineHealth, a nonprofit health care system, supports the project and participated in its design.

Amy Landry, communications manager for HealthInfoNet, told Computerworld that that 25 of Maine’s 39 hospitals and 182 of its 600 private physician practices use the HIE. Another nine hospitals are expected to join this year, and the state hopes to have all 39 signed up by the end of 2013.

Other states have seen only limited success with health information exchanges because hospitals tend to feel proprietary about their patient information. Landry said Maine’s providers were more receptive to sharing information because of the state’s relatively small population and mostly rural character.

The Maine experiment definitely bears watching.

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