What is image sharing?
Image sharing refers to the electronic exchange of patient medical images between hospitals, physicians, and patients. While past image sharing has depended largely on physical media, predominantly compact discs (CDs), there has been a recent push from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an image exchange method without relying on physical media. In response, the RSNA has developed an Image Share Network (ISN) based on the XDS.I.b profile of IHE. The ISN is essentially a secure web-based network that has been piloted to several institutions nationwide and allows for both physician and patient access to medical images.
Image sharing has become increasingly important. Benefits of image sharing include potentially improved interpretative quality given the availability of a prior imaging study for comparison, decreased numbers of inappropriately ordered or duplicated exams with associated decreased radiation exposure, shared diagnostic information for improved patient care by multiple care providers for the same patient, and timely availability of images or results at the point of care.
Challenges to optimal image sharing include concerns regarding privacy and security, given the use of protected health information, in addition to competitive concerns by health care institutions across the board. Having a high-security Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant data hosting center is necessary, and strict standards must be met to be HIPAA certified. Features that are secure and compliant include proper ability for identification and authentication, authorized privileges, access control, confidentiality, integrity of data, and accountability with audit trails. Other challenges include bandwidth requirements necessary for the image sharing network, which requires significant investment.