With the passage of the Affordable Care Act behind us, we’re focused on the future of healthcare: a new era where we put patients at the center of care. Providers’ focus is shifting from productivity and efficiency toward positive patient experiences and delivering the highest quality of care. Meanwhile, insurers are being pressed to design health plans that serve consumers, instead of employers, as the rules of reform take shape.

Technology has always been a critical ingredient in helping healthcare operate more efficiently, and that has always been the emphasis: how can we work smarter, move patients through the system more quickly, eliminate waste, and save money? But in this new era, what’s best for the patient is also best for the healthcare provider, who will reap the most rewards from delivering the best patient experience.

So the question becomes: how can we use the technology we’ve come to rely on for efficiency to help us create a more patient-focused healthcare system?

More collaboration means better patient care

Radiology is a field that has traditionally not been patient-centric, for reasons mostly having to do with the technology and processes used to capture, analyze, and share medical imaging procedures.  The shift to more coordinated care for a better patient experience and improved outcomes are emerging as the biggest trends in the field of radiology, including:

The movement to reduce duplicative tests.

  • Up to 20% of imaging tests — X-rays, MRIs, CT scans — are unnecessary, and contributing to high healthcare costs and frustrating, time-consuming, confusing patient experiences.

Giving patients more control over their records.

  • Today, patients of participating providers can access the emerging RSNA Image Share network, a cloud-based network partially funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Like with personal health records (PHRs), patients can control their own health information instead of relying on the healthcare system to keep integrated records.

Continuity in access to patient information.

  • In light of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters this year, clinical continuity and disaster recovery are important — to providers and patients alike. Patients need to feel confident that their providers can access vital medical records, images, and test results when they need them to make a diagnosis and quickly prescribe treatment. That means even when a computer system goes down.

Clinicians collaborating on a patient case.

  • Traditionally, physicians make a recommendation about a patient’s condition through a static radiology report and phone call — with little input beyond that. Radiologists and healthcare specialists need ways to view, analyze, annotate, and share opinions about test results even when they’re in different places, giving patients the benefit of multiple clinicians consulting on their cases.
Why the cloud is key

Cloud technology is the foundation for the future of patient-centered care — and cloud-based medical imaging is one of the foremost ways to put patients first. With the cloud:

  • Physicians and radiologists can communicate quickly, easily, and clearly by accessing a security enhanced central repository of medical images in the cloud, and gain a complete picture of a patient’s health status.
  • Regardless of where they work, what imaging system they use to access radiology reports, or where an image was captured, radiologists can access and work with medical images from a vendor-neutral archive that integrates information from across systems.
  • Physicians can view patient medical images and reports securely from any device — laptop, tablet or smartphone — whether they’re at the bedside, in their office, at home or on vacation, so they always have the right information at their fingertips to make informed decisions for the patient.

We should honor 2013 as the Year of the Patient: the year we in healthcare make the decided shift toward putting patients first. Cloud technology is the future of this healthcare shift, helping providers collaborate for the good of their patients, and giving patients back the control over their own health.

How do you think cloud technology can help improve patient care? Have you seen examples at work?