A picture is worth a thousand words: The role of photography in patient care – Part 2

In part 1 of this two-part series, we talked about how vital assessments are in patient care. The more descriptive each written assessment, the better every professional can deliver specialized treatment to the patient.

Julie McDonald, senior customer advisor at Hyland Healthcare, talked about how visible light imaging could mark a sea change in how patient assessments are completed. She talked about the challenges and benefits of clinical photography for both clinicians and patients.

“When that written word is supported by visual images, the patient story is instantly much richer,” said McDonald. “And those supportive images can put all stakeholders in patient care on a more level field of understanding.”

In part two, Matt Bishop, enterprise imaging architect at Unity Point Health, explains how technology can help solve some of the challenges the clinical side faces. Both spoke during SIIM 2020, the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine’s annual conference, held virtually this year.

Using technology to enable patient care

“My approach has always been to create technology that enables the clinical side and not vice versa,” said Bishop. “This is a clinical problem, not a technical problem, but technology needs to be there to help solve it.”

Bishop shared a number of ways healthcare organizations can use technology to get a jump on a clinical photography plan:

  • Take advantage of existing tools

While many healthcare organizations may not have a complete enterprise imaging suite, most of them have some of the underlying components necessary to begin building one.

“Most organizations have a radiology PACS or cardiology PACS or other tools,” said Bishop. “You can begin using the existing tools you have and start enabling these technologies and clinical workflows to feed a future enterprise imaging strategy.”

  • Acquire the right devices

There are a number of devices on the market that healthcare organizations should investigate and acquire, said Bishop.

During that acquisition, organizations should consider how patients might react to certain devices. Personal cameras, or “bring your own” devices, tend to trigger a negative reaction while digital devices purchased and owned by the hospital system provide more mental security — and are often much easier to secure.

  • Avoid image-capture silos

Dedicated image acquisition devices put patients at ease, especially when they are used in what seems like a standardized clinical setting. However, they can also create image silos, so it is imperative that all devices are included in the organization’s overall enterprise imaging infrastructure.

  • Prepare for different imaging formats

As patients become more accustomed to sharing images with providers, the more imaging formats providers will encounter. File formats, especially container files, could include multiple images, as well. Some of those images may not be pertinent to the provider, and providers will need to figure out the best way to handle these images.

“Leverage your infrastructure, leverage governance, leverage the processes you already have in place. You can modify most of those file formats to match photo documentation,” said Bishop.

  • Enable workflows

The bottom line, according to Bishop, is to ensure you have a connected environment with the proper workflows.

“If you’re doing an encounter-based workflow, you need to get demographics and you need to get the metadata,” explained Bishop. “And usually, you’re querying some system to get patient-level metadata. You’re creating the system to get some exam-level metadata. You may be putting annotations on the drawing. All those things need to happen in a connected environment.”

  • Put a premium on metadata

Everything from properly indexing images to comparing images side by side relies on a solid metadata methodology. You just need to take the time to do it.

“Most of the systems that are out there already have methods for adding the appropriate metadata,” said Bishop.

Facilitating medical image exchange

Bishop concluded by talking about the myriad ways technology can handle the transmission and storage of images, from the number of industry vendor formats in the market to the benefits and challenges of DICOM images.

“There are some limitations to DICOM, especially as it relates to photography, but if you’re using jpegs and you’re doing basic photography, DICOM can be great,” he said. “And if nothing else, it’s a great start for a program that you can then expand with more technology and more tools as you go.”

Ready to learn more about facilitating medical image exchange across the continuum of care? Click here.

Tom Tennant has expertise in content creation and content services and has been a contributor to the Hyland blog.
Tom Tennant

Tom Tennant

Tom Tennant has expertise in content creation and content services and has been a contributor to the Hyland blog.

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