The Philadelphia Health Information Exchange, a radiology regional health information organization, has been of limited use because of infrastructure setbacks and security applications in participating hospitals' IT networks, according to an article in the current issue of Health Data Management.
The RHIO initially was created to exchange radiology images to help treat patients at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, but the network has expanded to 11 local imaging centers where competing hospitals exchange unidentified images for academic research.
Participating hospitals' security applications prevent them from exchanging images for treatment purposes, and many of the image studies are being duplicated. Nearly 25% of 10,000 patient images in an 11-month period were duplicated by two competing area hospitals, Health Data Management reports.
In addition, some of the IT systems at smaller physician practices participating in the RHIO do not have enough bandwidth to view the radiology images, said Terri Fronheiser, practice manager at Family Practice Association of King of Prussia, a three-physician practice in Pennsylvania. The practice currently uses the RHIO's Web portal to access radiology reports but plans to upgrade its system to let care providers access images, she said.
Despite technical difficulties, the RHIO provides clinical benefits. Physicians now can receive radiology reports more quickly, and participants are working to increase the network's functionality, according to Dr. Steven Horii, clinical director of the medical informatics group at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
The RHIO expects 20 more practices to join its network by the end of October. Hx Technologies so far has received $2.3 million in grants from NIH to develop and test the RHIO technology's feasibility and let providers participate at no cost for an initial period. Additional grant money is allocated to:
- Study the effect of sharing imaging data to diagnose cancer;
- Assess the impact on care quality from access to previous images; and
- Comply with medical imaging interoperability standards (Martin, Health Data Management, October 2006).