I'm always talking about how lame the health IT landscape is --- and with good reason. But there is one domain in which advances have been consistent and amazing and clearly impactful to care: medical imaging. Our ability to look inside a body and see with incredible detail what's going on inside is just staggering.
Well, today there is no way I could be more over-the-top excited to say --- medical imaging is now a core part of the HealthVault platform. We're talking full diagnostic quality DICOM images, with an integration that makes it immediately useful to consumers and their providers:
- A new release of HealthVault Connection Center that makes it super-easy to upload images from a CD or DVD , and enables users to burn new discs to share with providers --- complete with a viewer and "autoplay" behavior that providers expect.
- Full platform support for HealthVault applications to store and retrieve images themselves, enabling seamless integration with radiology centers and clinical systems.
There are a ton of ways this capability is going to change the game for folks. A really simple example --- last December when I crashed my scooter, it started me off on a long and winding path through the healthcare system. I had a ton of images taken: a CT scan of my head, multiple X-Rays, an ultrasound and an MRI of my knee. I visited no less than a dozen different providers during this episode, and at least half of them wanted to see my images (and keep them for their charts). Just making sure I had enough copies was a big challenge. Now they're all in HealthVault. Woo hoo!
But more interesting was that they found a weird piece of bone floating behind my knee. They didn't think it was part of the accident, and they didn't think it would be a problem --- but really they had no idea. Had this been there all along? Was it changing? Who knows --- so they just assumed it was all good, and probably it is. I hope.
But now that my images are in HealthVault --- next time I will not have to "hope." Together with my doctor, we'll be able to look at my past image, compare it with a current one, and see if there is an issue without having to guess. THIS is better care, folks. Forget about my little knee issue, I have a good friend here at work that has to get an MRI every couple of months to see if the tumor in his head is changing. For this --- I want a safe and permanent record, thank you very much.
OK --- so a better way to manage CDs and DVDs is really cool. But this feature is WAY more than that --- because the image data type is available to any HealthVault application. This means that institutions can collect images as part of the preregistration or referral process --- and have them ready to go in their own PACS or charts when you show up. Getting a second, third, fourth opinion now becomes easy and cost effective. Imaging centers can automatically send your images to your personal health record rather than forcing you to hoof the discs around yourself. And on, and on. We already have partners like lifeIMAGE working with the image type, and many more to come.
How can we offer this service? Thanks to the cloud! We're using Windows Azure Storage as a cost-effective and fully-redundant store for the image data. Azure is totally awesome, and really changes the cost of running services like HealthVault.
Of course, we have to ensure that we keep the data secure and private as well --- we do this with a really cool piece of code that creates unique encryption keys for every image, stores those keys in our core HealthVault data center, and only sends encrypted, chunked data to Azure. This effectively lets us use Azure as an infinitely-sized disk --- warms this geek's heart to see it all come together.
So what are you waiting for? Start uploading your images and know you'll have them ready to go the next time you need them. Don't have your discs? Virtually any imaging center or hospital can send you copies --- just give them a call (or if you happen to go to the University of Washington Medical Center like I did, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your visit information).
Naysayers beware --- we are steadily changing this industry. Come join us, it's a lot of fun over here!