Hospitals Embrace Colorado Telehealth Network Imaging Exchange, Supported by GNAX Health

Recently, in Colorado, a governor’s emergency and trauma care task force recommended that the state develop a centralized image exchange and broadband network to enable clinicians to view medical images at the point of care. Typically, when committees articulate such a goal, there’s a long road ahead trying to figure out how to make things happen.

Little did task force members know that Colorado hospitals were already bringing this vision to fruition through the Colorado Telehealth Network (CTN), which in November 2012 had launched a program that enables healthcare providers to safely store and share medical images through a private cloud-based vendor neutral archive (VNA), hosted and managed by GNAX Health, Atlanta. 

“In trauma care, seconds count. Being able to have a clinician in a remote area x-ray a person who just got hurt in a ski accident in Breckenridge and then immediately share that image with a trauma doctor in Denver is priceless. With this capability, the trauma specialist and the physician on site can talk on the phone together while looking at and manipulating the same image. The imaging study doesn’t actually have to move anywhere. So, there’s no lag time and the trauma doctor can truly provide guidance that could help treat the patient more effectively,” says Toria Thompson, healthcare strategy consultant at Colorado Telehealth Network.

The consolidated archive also eliminates the need for patients to carry their images from provider to provider on disc -- a practice that often resulted in the need for duplicate studies as many of the providers simply could not read the manually transported media.  As such, the VNA is helping to eliminate unnecessary exposure to radiation.

Although these clinical advantages have spurred interest in the VNA, the business value of the model is attracting providers as well. To start, hospital leaders recognize that storing images in a cloud based archive will eliminate future costs associated with transferring archived images from an existing to a replacement PACs. By moving to a vendor neutral archive, they can pay to transfer the images now and avoid that expense the next time they swap out their PACS technology.

In addition, storing images in the VNA makes it possible to provide physicians with a single interface for viewing images, a requirement for Stage 2 Meaningful Use. The fact that the VNA stores images for decades, compared to a few years, makes the model more attractive than some of the other “table-top” storage schemes that are being deployed by other organizations.

CTN is integrating the image viewing capability into two established health information exchanges (HIEs) – the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) and Quality Health Network (QHN). When it becomes available, health care providers participating in these HIEs will have the option to access the medical images through the HIE. As such, CTN does not have to start from scratch but can instead leverage the HIEs’ work with master patient indexes (MPIs), provider access, log-ins, security and overall governance. With this approach in place, there is no need to create individual point-to-point interfaces into each of the provider organization’s PACS.

The program, in fact, was developed by nine Colorado hospitals. Working with CTN, these hospitals discovered that the unique requirements of the initiative would require a specific set of capabilities that could be addressed through a strategic alliance. Several use cases - such as the ability to search, retrieve and exchange medical image studies federated across CTN and view images quickly from the cloud - led to this best-of-breed approach. After a thorough RFI process and evaluation of five solutions, CTN selected a solution provided by GNAX Health through a strategic alliance with Acuo Technologies and Client Outlook.

"We have already signed up our first hospital and are well on our way to bringing others aboard. We are confident this new image-storing service has the functionality and advantages our clients deserve, and promises to significantly enhance patient care coordination and quality across Colorado,” says Ed Bostick, executive director of Colorado Health Network.  “The real beauty of it, though, is that we are adding this image viewing capability without the additional costs associated with setting up costly one-to-one interfaces into each provider’s PACs."