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Image-Sharing Union Cuts Costs, Aids Patients

February 22, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Sharing medical imaging information while remaining competitors has worked well for four Seattle-area health care providers. Very well, in fact.

Each provider—Harrison Medical Center and Olympic Radiology of Bremerton, and The Doctors Clinic and Advanced Medical Imaging of Silverdale—is a multisite organization on the Kitsap Peninsula, west of Seattle. They all realized that not being able to share images was creating problems for patients. Emergency care was delayed while a doctor tried to access previous images done at another facility, or scans were duplicated, at additional cost and radiation exposure.

But each organization wanted to protect its patient and referral base, and each wanted to shield proprietary information.

So, in September 2012, the four providers jointly created Northwest ImageShare. The venture has definitely succeeded, as Cat Vasko of ImagingBiz detailed earlier this month.

Adar Palis, executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and chief operating officer of Harrison Medical Center, came up with the idea. He explained:

Everyone agreed to come together for the best interests of the patients, and we quickly realized the incredible financial benefits that we could achieve by working together. The idea communicated to the group was simple: we are all in this business to provide the best care possible, but let’s look at providing it more economically.

Just how incredible are those financial benefits? Brennan Dobbins, clinical and ancillary services director for The Doctors Clinic, said:

With Northwest ImageShare in place, our PACS costs are reduced by 60 percent. Decreased per-study storage costs, along with support-staff reductions and the absence of an on-site archive, compose the savings.

Harrison Medical Center and Advanced Medical Imaging had already used Sectra PACS; the other two organizations converted to it. Harrison hosts the data center and archive. Providers at any of the four organizations can view the entire patient folder of images and reports. Information about physicians at the other entities, as well as other proprietary and privacy-related details, remain invisible.

“Our physicians have immediate access to all the relevant images that they need to make informed decisions,” Dobbins said. “The benefits to our patients and community are immense.”

Ty Walker, executive director and chief information officer at Harrison Medical Center, plans to present information about Northwest ImageShare in New Orleans on March 5 at the Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society. And the four organizations hope to add other Seattle-area providers to the venture.

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Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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