Julie Kirst

Julie Kirst, Editor

In October 2010, we published Ken Olbrish’s “Networking” article, “Understanding Cloud Computing,” which shared that hosted solutions—from remote storage to more complex application hosting—historically existed as application service provider (ASP) solutions. Rebranded to fall in line with today’s IT terminology, ASP has become “cloud computing,” which involves hosted applications or hardware/infrastructure—such as servers or storage—via the Internet.

Since that article’s publication, the digital revolution has swept health care. The proliferation of mobile devices in the health care arena and a greater use of digital radiology have paved the way to viewing digital images and even making a diagnosis on mobile devices—all of which has led to expanded cloud applications.

Electronic Medical Information Exchange (eMix), a business of DR Systems, is one company that offers vendor-neutral, cloud-based technology. According to eMix, separate health care facilities and physicians can share medical imaging studies and reports as quickly and as easily as e-mail.

As clinical/biomedical engineering professionals become more involved in connectivity and the electronic health record (EHR), building awareness of the tools that facilitate patient care and safety will benefit your organization.

Some of the advanced ways hospitals have employed this type of cloud computing include using specialists in multiple locations to view images simultaneously for consultation, and rapid imaging file transfers that make reimaging of a patient unnecessary—saving time and preventing excess radiation exposure for the patient.

According to Florent Saint-Clair, DR Systems vice president of business development and eMix general manager, many eMix customers receive images that go directly into the hospital information system for trauma patients—even before the patient arrives at the hospital. Receiving advance images give clinicians the opportunity to develop a care plan they can implement once the patient arrives. “They often bypass the emergency room and send the patient straight to the operating room,” Saint-Clair says. “We’ve seen how this also saves hospitals substantial costs—$14,000 to $18,000 per patient.”

This seamless electronic transmission that will populate the hospital’s system also encourages facilities to continue their movement toward the EHR. In late August, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the next steps in Meaningful Use that she says will lead to more coordination of patient care, reduced medical errors, and the elimination of duplicate screenings and tests. Health care professionals and hospitals that adopt and “meaningfully use” certified EHR technology can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.

The announcement, which addressed Stage 2 of the three-stage program, made it clear that no providers will be required to follow Stage 2 before 2014. The requirements in the notice also outlined the criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so hospitals can select appropriate systems. The requirements have cut red tape to make the certification process more efficient and will allow current EHR technology to be used until 2014.

These digital and cloud advances have given clinicians new views to care for their patients, and, with your help, hospitals can take the next step to implement these life-saving techniques.

Find Out More About Cloud Computing and Meaningful Use