Leveraging Remote Ultrasound for Specialist Review and Support in Rural Areas

In rural areas, accessing specialized medical care has long been a daunting challenge for patients in need. Long distances to facilities, funding challenges, access to specialists, and high costs in general can all present barriers to diagnosis and treatment. However, as digitization sweeps across the healthcare landscape, technology has emerged as an equalizer. Remote ultrasound in particular is a game-changer that’s revolutionizing the way specialist care is delivered to rural populations.

Rural health challenges

To understand the potential of remote ultrasound, you must consider the social determinants of health (SDOH) rural populations face as they seek specialist care. Some of the biggest hurdles include:

  • Geographic isolation: Rural healthcare facilities are often fewer and farther from the populations they serve. This can make it difficult (and expensive) for patients to travel to see a specialist.
  • Transportation challenges: Rural patients may not have access to reliable transportation, which can make it problematic for them to travel to see a specialist. Moreover, public transit is generally lacking in rural communities.
  • Lack of specialists: There are fewer practicing specialists in rural areas than in urban areas. This is due to a number of factors, including lower population density in rural areas, as well as pay inequalities for rural providers.
  • Cost of care: The cost of specialist care can be high, and rural patients may not have the financial resources to pay for it. Insurance may only offer limited coverage for specialists. These high out-of-pocket expenses can cause patients to forgo care.

These challenges can make it difficult for rural patients to get the proactive care they need — particularly from specialists who play a critical role in assessing treatment for chronic or unique conditions.

Enter remote ultrasound

Over the past decade, ultrasound has moved to the forefront of medicine across numerous specialties. Its diagnostic abilities allow internal medicine specialists to diagnose, assess, treat, and monitor conditions. Ultrasound has also benefitted from innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS), which have made it more accessible and reliable.

Perhaps the most important ultrasound innovation recently is remote imaging. This segment of telemedicine enables any qualified diagnostician to scan patients and transmit images to specialists in real time — wherever they are. Through platforms like TeleRay Remote, clinicians can even control equipment remotely to manipulate scan images or consult with patients using their scans as a guide.

Remote ultrasound is also incredibly secure. Because patient data is encrypted and transmitted directly from end to end, patients and providers get peace of mind in not only the level of care being provided but also the integrity of the experience.

Empowering specialists to help rural patients

Providers in rural communities often face challenges driven by their location. Their caseloads are higher, and they frequently see patients for longer periods of their lives, treating conditions that may be exacerbated by other healthcare barriers. This means they’re often seeking innovations that help provide optimal care within these constraints.

Remote ultrasound helps rural clinicians get the support they need. Thanks to remote ultrasound, they’re no longer constrained by the resources immediately available to them. On top of these benefits, remote ultrasound also:

  • Allows use via cellular networks despite poor internet coverage
  • Eliminates the need for on-site specialists to receive and interpret high-fidelity scans
  • Helps reduce the workload of specialists due to fewer non-anomalous referrals
  • Enables training and support for non-specialist healthcare providers and diagnosticians
  • Offers portability and can be part of mobile clinics and care units
  • Ensures patient privacy through direct P2P transmission in compliance with HIPAA laws
  • Lowers healthcare costs by preventing rescans, unnecessary referrals, patient travel, etc.

Above all, remote ultrasound makes healthcare more equitable for rural patients who don’t have the same access due to SDOH factors. From a small local clinic to a mobile screening program to a rural hospital, remote ultrasound brings specialist expertise into the healthcare journey — wherever it occurs.

Helping rural patients access care

Numerous barriers make it difficult for rural patients to get the care they need. Remote ultrasound helps specialists provide a higher caliber of care to rural populations so they can benefit from improved diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Thanks to technology like TeleRay Remote, intervention is no longer dependent on proximity to providers. Now, specialists can do more with less — regardless of location — and facilitate healthier patients, communities, and populations.

Learn how TeleRay can help rural healthcare providers manage medical imaging more efficiently. Book a demo today at teleray.com.

Unnecessary Rescans: The Hidden Scourge of Healthcare

Diagnostic imaging plays a crucial role in modern medicine. But lurking behind every CAT scan, MRI, and X-ray lies a hidden scourge: unnecessary rescans. These repeated imaging procedures — caused by everything from technical glitches and inconclusive results due to sub-optimal patient positioning or operator technique or experience — not only drain valuable resources but also place undue stress on patients.

Thankfully, there are ways to address excessive rescans. It’s time to highlight this overlooked issue and work toward a more efficient, patient-centered approach to diagnostic imaging.

Scan and scan again

A rescan typically refers to the repetition of an imaging procedure — such as a CT MRI, ultrasound or X-ray — due to circumstances impeding the accurate interpretation of the initial scan. A rescan may be required for several reasons, including:

  • Technical issues, from equipment malfunction to image artifact
  • CD’s – still the most common method for exchanging studies – being unreadable by the recipient physician
  • Inconclusive results yielded by the initial scan

These factors collectively contribute to an increasing prevalence of unnecessary rescanning each year. With each rescan comes significant costs and inconveniences for healthcare systems and patients alike.

Several studies and statistics reveal the magnitude of the problem of unnecessary rescanning. For instance, one peer-reviewed publication cites errors in “an estimated day-to-day rate of 3–5% of studies reported, and much higher rates reported in many targeted studies.”

Effectively, of the 1 billion radiologic examinations performed annually, 30-50 million are rescans. This figure — along with others probing the causes behind high rescan rates — underscores the substantial wastes associated with avoidable rescans.

The wastes and dangers of unnecessary rescans

Unnecessary rescans in diagnostic imaging have major implications, in terms of both the financial costs and waste of valuable healthcare resources. Each rescan incurs additional expenses, including equipment usage, staff time, and radiologist interpretations. These costs can add up quickly, burdening healthcare systems and diverting funds that could be allocated to other critical areas of patient care.

The cost also goes beyond the financial expense. One of the top risks associated with unnecessary rescans is the repeated exposure to radiation. Many imaging procedures, such as CT scans, involve the use of ionizing radiation. While the radiation dose from a single scan is typically considered safe, the cumulative effect of multiple scans can elevate the risk of potential radiation-related complications and adverse effects. Indeed, studies indicate that up to 2% of all cancers in the US are linked to CT scans.

Further, as the population ages, the demands on imaging equipment has driven up stress on the infrastructure and clinicians / technicians alike. Accordingly, burn-out rates among professionals is currently at alarming levels, leading to a severe shortage of radiologists. With the over 60 population set to grow nearly 50% by 2050 the current growth in radiology internship of 2.5% will likely deepen the problem.

Patient inconvenience must also be considered. Unnecessary rescans can impose increased stress, anxiety, and frustration due to prolonged waiting times for rescheduled scans, additional visits to the imaging center, and potential delays in receiving a diagnosis. Moreover, excessive rescans can lead to longer wait times for patients who require initial scans delaying their diagnoses and treatment plans.

Strategies for reducing rescans

While the medical field has largely accepted rescans as “part of the process,” modern innovations have unlocked opportunities to mitigate the need for rescans by resolving pain points before, during, and after the initial scans. Here’s how:

  • Embrace advancements in imaging technology. For example, TeleRay enables remote specialist consultation during initial scans, decreasing errors caused by operator inexperience or technical glitches. Additionally, the integration of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis.
  • Implement standardized protocols. By adhering to well-defined and widely accepted protocols, such as positioning guidelines, imaging parameters, and acquisition techniques, providers can ensure consistency and optimize scan quality. Standardization minimizes variations in imaging practices and facilitates better comparability between studies.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Encouraging an open dialogue and providing clear communication channels allow for a better understanding of clinical indications and patient history, reducing the likelihood of misinterpretation or incomplete information. Radiologists can offer guidance to technicians during scans, ensuring optimal image acquisition, while referring physicians can provide comprehensive clinical information to enhance the accuracy of interpretations.
  • Offer continuous education and training. Radiologists, technicians, and other staff members should be well versed in the latest imaging techniques, quality assurance measures, and protocols. Continuous education and training can decrease technical errors and increase the efficiency of initial imaging.

Mitigate the scourge of rescans

Unnecessary rescans pose a considerable burden on healthcare systems, patients, and resources. By embracing advancements in imaging technology, implementing standardized protocols, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, providers can take steps toward reducing rescans. While every scan won’t be viable, in the modern era, there’s more opportunity than ever to get it right the first time.

Learn how TeleRay can help healthcare providers manage medical imaging more efficiently. Book a demo today at teleray.com.

Electronic Image Exchange Systems Improve Healthcare, but at What Cost?

The healthcare industry is undergoing rapid innovation thanks to numerous technological advancements. In radiology, electronic image exchange systems (EIES) have emerged as a game-changer, offering seamless access to medical images and reports, facilitating collaboration among healthcare professionals, and enhancing patient care. But as the benefits of EIES become increasingly evident, it’s crucial to consider the costs associated with their implementation.

From privacy concerns and interoperability challenges to the financial burden of infrastructure and training, there are multifaceted challenges facing EIES. It raises the question: How can you ensure the benefits outweigh the costs?

Benefits of electronic image exchange systems

To understand why electronic image exchange systems have become a centralized, staple technology in diagnostic imaging, you must consider the benefits they provide:

  • Streamlined access: Electronic image exchange systems allow healthcare providers to access medical images and accompanying reports quickly and easily. This expedites the process of retrieving patient data and enables professionals to make informed decisions about diagnosis and treatment more efficiently.
  • Enhanced collaboration: By securely sharing images and reports electronically, physicians, radiologists, and other specialists can consult with one another, discuss cases, and reach a consensus on patient management. This improves interdisciplinary teamwork and leads to better patient outcomes.
  • Improved outcomes: Rapid access to medical images through EIES helps providers make timely and accurate diagnoses. When images are readily accessible, healthcare professionals can compare current and past images, track disease progression, and make informed decisions about ongoing treatment.
  • Time and cost savings: Traditional methods of transferring medical images — such as burning images onto CDs or physically delivering films — can be time-consuming and costly. Through EIES, providers can securely share images with the click of a button. This efficiency allows for faster turnaround times and lower media costs.

Challenges and costs associated with EIES

Like most technologies, electronic image exchange systems benefit providers, patients, and healthcare organizations only when they are implemented and used effectively. This is where obstacles begin to emerge for many organizations, including common barriers such as:

  • Privacy and security concerns: Where there’s digital data, there’s a risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Healthcare organizations must implement robust security measures, encryption techniques, and access controls to mitigate these risks. Compliance with HIPAA adds an extra layer of complexity and cost to EIES implementation.
  • Interoperability issues: Electronic image exchange systems often face challenges in achieving interoperability due to variations in data formats, protocols, and proprietary systems. Healthcare organizations may need to invest in additional resources to ensure compatibility between their EIES and other systems used by external providers or facilities.
  • Infrastructure and maintenance costs: If they don’t already possess them, organizations must acquire servers, storage, networking equipment, and software licenses to support the exchange and storage of medical images. Additionally, there are ongoing costs associated with EIES maintenance, updates, and upgrades.
  • Training and learning curve: Adopting a new EIES may pose challenges for healthcare professionals accustomed to traditional methods of image sharing. Training can improve proficiency but requires allocating time and resources for learning, which can impact productivity.

Balancing the pros and cons

The decision to deploy EIES requires careful evaluation of the potential benefits weighed against the real costs and barriers each organization faces in any situation, but most particularly in smaller practices where financial and workflow impacts usually are disproportionately greater than in larger organizations. A cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken to determine if the advantages outweigh the potential drawbacks

  • Assess the existing technological infrastructure and determine if it can support EIES.
  • Identify resources and budgets for upfront investments, maintenance, and upgrades.
  • Plan for ethical considerations, such as patient consent for sharing and accessing images.
  • Account for legal implications, including HIPAA compliance surrounding electronic protected health information.

If there’s a clear path toward ROI, the focus narrows to the specific risks and challenges faced by the organization. This might include prioritizing data security, adopting industry standards for interoperability, and developing comprehensive training programs to facilitate adoption.

Achieving a better standard of care

Electronic image exchange systems have undeniably made significant strides in improving healthcare delivery. They streamline access to vital medical images, promote collaboration among healthcare professionals, and enhance patient care. But it’s imperative to acknowledge and address the costs and challenges accompanying these benefits.

As electronic image exchange systems continue to expand, striking a balance will be key. Focusing on purposeful implementation and adhering to best practices are the best ways to mitigate the cost of innovation and ensure maximum ROI — both in patient care and on the bottom line.

Learn how TeleRay is designed from the ground up to not only meet and exceed these requirements as the fastest, most secure EIES available with no/low implementation footprint but also to do so remarkably economically to drive up ROI. Book a demo today at teleray.com/book-a-demo.

The Key Role Medical Imaging Plays in Precision Medicine

Precision medicine is a groundbreaking approach to delivering personalized healthcare to patients. It tailors medical treatments to an individual’s unique genetic makeup, lifestyle, and environment while being guided by data-driven technologies. This method has already yielded impressive results, leading to personalized care that’s more effective and less invasive.

While there’s much ado about the drug-related aspects of precision medicine, one crucial component often goes overlooked — the role of medical imaging. Imaging enables physicians to diagnose diseases, monitor treatment progress, and predict outcomes. These vital capabilities mean medical imaging is integral in putting patients on a personalized path to wellness.

The age of personalized medicine

No two people are alike. Individual variability, genetics, and environmental factors affect how we react to symptoms and respond to treatment. When prompt medical care is critical for effective treatment and recovery, rapid diagnosis is vital. Precision medicine aims to transform the practice of medicine with early diagnosis and personalized treatments tailored to the individual characteristics of each patient, offering a turnkey approach.

Imaging plays a pivotal role in precision medicine by providing individualized screening and early diagnosis to guide treatment and evaluate the response to therapy. Medical imaging can customize care at a foundational level for everyone by identifying genomic drivers and delivering the necessary information to offer the right treatment at the right time.

There’s a growing, critical need to ensure every aspect of care is informed by patient data. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people 80 years and older will triple between 2020 and 2050. But elderly patients aren’t the only population in need of specialized care. In the United States, six in 10 adults experience chronic disease. Image-guided tests and treatments provide physicians with fact-based data to make immediate diagnoses and offer precise treatment for improved outcomes.

How medical imaging enables precision medicine

Medical imaging lays the groundwork for an insightful approach to precision medicine. It can assist in diagnosing disease with enhanced accuracy, helping medical professionals better identify prognoses and inform treatments for disorders. Medical imaging offers many benefits to guide care delivery, including:

  • Diagnostic capabilities: Medical imaging systems provide accurate images to evaluate disease or medical emergencies. The widespread application of AI across imaging modalities can improve diagnostics for more effective treatment and follow-up care.
  • Tailored treatment plans: Treatment guided by medical imaging allows medical providers to offer more accurate, less invasive treatments.
  • Monitoring treatment progress: Multiple scans are often used to monitor a disease over time. Repeat medical imaging can evaluate tumor sizes or monitor the treatment of a broken bone or illness.
  • Predictive analytics: When medical images are used successfully for diagnosis and in monitoring treatment plans, the data derived from these cases provide more information about medical conditions. The growing collection of medical intelligence can train AI systems to increase the accuracy of predictive analytics.

The future of precision medicine is now

Imaging can be utilized to improve all aspects of care while supporting more targeted, predictive, personalized, and effective care approaches. Recent advancements in imaging technology increase the speed of diagnostics and lead to rapid treatment for the best outcomes possible. As modern equipment and technology converge, data can be leveraged to further advance immediate and personalized treatment.

Consider how these advancements combining big data and technology with medical imaging will provide more innovative personalized treatment for patients:

  • Personalized imaging: Capturing images can be challenging for certain populations. Advanced imaging techniques combined with personalized methods can reduce patient stress to allow medical professionals to gather necessary data.
  • Radiogenomics: By correlating imaging studies with genomic data, providers may eventually be able to identify cancers with greater accuracy and give personalized treatment options to patients based on genetic and clinical data.
  • Advanced image sharing: Secure cloud storage systems like TeleRay’s offer superfast uploads, downloads, and viewing anywhere on any device and at any time. By transferring patient studies faster and more securely, these platforms can reduce the time to diagnosis and speed treatment options.
  • Image-guided interventions: Imaging can help guide clinicians to deliver therapies while protecting the surrounding healthy structures from exposure.
  • Precise radiation therapy: Machine learning tools can offer clinical decision support to accurately calculate optimal doses of radiation therapy for cancer patients and supply the right amount of treatment for their needs.

The future of precision medicine looks incredibly promising due in part to the role of medical imaging and its ability to lay the groundwork for personalized treatments. Medical imaging techniques will continue to become more sophisticated, cost-effective, and accessible, resulting in better outcomes. As physicians find new ways to combine medical imaging technology with powerful software and personalized drugs, the future of care delivery stands to become more effective, efficient, and equitable for all.

Learn more about a faster, more secure way to share medical images at TeleRay.com.

Top 10 Pain Points in Medical Image Sharing

Medical imaging is an essential aspect of healthcare — one increasingly part of a decentralized care-delivery model. But while systems are emerging to improve the transmissibility of critical patient data, the process of sharing medical images can be a complex one to navigate and a significant pain point for healthcare organizations.

From technological limitations to regulatory compliance, medical image sharing comes with a host of challenges possibly leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, decreased patient satisfaction, and increased costs. Let’s explore 10 of the top barriers (and solutions to address them).

The age of information mobility

Medical data is mobile, following patients from provider to provider across their healthcare journeys. As such, it must be easily transmissible. While this may sound simple, there are obstacles to sending, accessing, storing, and transferring medical data. Imaging data is especially difficult to mobilize.

Establishing mobile, transferable medical data protocols is crucial. The barriers to sending patient information affect a patient’s experience and their provider’s ability to deliver care. Issues like downtime, integrations, support, and training can make it difficult for providers to share patient information between practices. Just because you can send it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe, secure, or usable in another facility.

Identifying pain points

Making medical images uniformly accessible when and where they’re most needed starts by understanding the obstacles preventing this mobility. Here are 10 of the top pain points in medical image sharing today:

  1. Limited interoperability: Medical imaging must be available to providers regardless of the software they use in their practice. If systems can’t send, receive, decode, and present data uniformly, providers are less likely to rely on them.
  2. Lack of standardization: From file formatting to encryption standards and channels, providers must ensure they’re aligned with what constitutes best practices when sharing imaging data.
  3. Slow and inefficient transfer speeds: When it takes minutes or even hours to transfer data, you’re at a higher risk level than instant transfers. Uploads and downloads can time out, wasting your precious time.
  4. Cybersecurity risks: HIPPA and other data privacy laws require strict cybersecurity protocols. Many medical image-transfer services are unequipped to defend against attacks, putting patients and providers at risk of bad actors.
  5. EHR integration barriers: When an electronic health record (EHR) is incompatible with your practice’s system, reviewing a patient’s records and treating them appropriately are more difficult.
  6. Lack of accessibility and availability: Some practices do not have digital medical image sharing, which presents another problem. Complex or confusing software makes it harder for providers to switch or use the system consistently.
  7. Expensive solutions: Unfortunately, some medical image-sharing software is expensive, making it cost-prohibitive for smaller providers. Tech debt is a prevalent concern as the healthcare ecosystem continues its march toward digitization.
  8. Limited patient control: Giving your patients control over their data and medical records can help, but not all medical image-sharing software allows the patient any modicum of control.
  9. Lack of collaboration among providers: Whether providers are in the same practice or not, collaboration is the key to ensuring your patients’ healthcare needs are addressed appropriately. When your software fails to allow for collaboration, miscommunications and misdiagnoses are more likely.
  10. Lack of support and training: New software requires support and training. If your medical image-sharing software doesn’t offer skills-based training and customer support, your patients may suffer as a result.

Many of the problems noted above are due to tech gaps and learning barriers. While this is understandable, it also places patients and providers at a significant disadvantage. Hospitals and other medical practices must adopt new technology, understand it, and create new processes around it.

Step into the future with TeleRay

The technologies enabling medical image sharing are still evolving, and so are providers’ responses to adopting and using these systems. To keep pace with the speed of innovation and ensure it translates to speed and satisfaction of care, providers must focus on the pain points hampering medical image sharing. Laying the groundwork for better transmissibility will lead to a superior standard of patient care in the years to come — no matter how the tech continues to evolve.

Learn more about how TeleRay improves medical image transmissibility at teleray.com.

DICOM, Interoperability, and the Patient Experience

In the digital age of healthcare, accessibility is critical. On the patient side, access to their health records, vital information, and providers drives more engagement. On the provider side, access to patient data in aggregate sets the stage for delivering a higher standard of care. These two sides of accessibility create a better patient experience — and they’re both made possible thanks to interoperability.

Interoperability is more than a buzzword in healthcare — it’s a crucial concept that needs constant attention and improvement as telehealth and digital healthcare systems evolve. Unfortunately, interoperability challenges persist in the current healthcare environment, prompting technology innovators to pursue standardizations, like DICOM.

Standardization as a means of data mobilization

Standardization levels the playing field for how healthcare data is created, formatted, stored, shared, and used. And it’s this standardization that directly enables interoperability. Interoperability, as defined by HIMSS, is the “ability of different information systems, devices and applications (systems) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.”

Take diagnostic imaging data, for example. A CAT scan generated on-site needs to yield the same level of insight when viewed off-site by a specialist, or even years later, when compared side by side to a current scan. That scan needs to preserve data no matter how many times it’s accessed, where it’s stored, or what applications is used to access it.

Standardizing medical data practices enables mobility and accessibility without loss of integrity. It’s why standards like DICOM exist for medical imaging data, HL7 for test results reporting, or SNOMED CT for standardizing medical terminology around the world. The goal is ubiquitous understanding, and it starts by ensuring everyone is using the same tools, following the same methods, and communicating with the same words.

Standardization is important and it has certainly helped, but it is not the sole solution needed for healthcare imagery. Interoperability is the next critical step in the process to ensure the images are safely and securely stored for easy and reliable access.

The growing importance of interoperability

Healthcare around the world is undergoing a booming technological evolution. The result is an increasing number of digital innovations, producing exponential amounts of data. Not only is this data important and insightful; it’s also deeply interconnected and critical to the delivery of patient care.

Leading the charge in generating critical data is medical imaging. As imaging technologies have evolved to include point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) and similar frontline diagnostic tools, providers have become increasingly reliant on imaging throughout the patient journey. Standardization of this data — primarily thanks to DICOM — has fueled the rise of medical imaging applications to meet demand.

But DICOM alone hasn’t necessarily created interoperability. Providers’ adherence to DICOM is what has allowed medical imaging to become more accessible across the spectrum of care. It’s one thing to move data from A to B, but if you can’t use it, you haven’t achieved anything. The cleanup of tags, file set readers, and pixel data value sets — aligned with DICOM standards — ensures images can be restored wherever they’re sent. This is critical in trauma, triage, and mission-critical situations where patients can’t afford to be rescanned.

A direct impact on the patient experience

Interoperability of healthcare data across systems has a tangible impact on patients, specifically as it pertains to outcomes and experience. For instance, interoperability of radiology — the de facto diagnostic tool — is critical, and something TeleRay provides on a daily basis. With TeleRay, healthcare teams can ensure:

  • Increased speed to care
  • Faster diagnosis
  • Lower costs
  • Less frustration
  • More patient throughput
  • Better outcomes

The key is ensuring radiology images are not only kept to a high standard at the point of care, but that they can be restorable to view in future healthcare events. Without this ability, patients may succumb to unnecessary rescans, slow speed to care, or, in the event of a trauma or emergency, potential fatality.

Diagnostic imaging as a frontline treatment tool, coupled with DICOM standards to ensure interoperability, marks a new paradigm for healthcare and the potential of digitized data. It allows providers to do their jobs quicker, better, and more confidently, which leads to trust, optimism, and engagement from patients. In a world of value-based care, it’s an all-important relationship — one that’s actionable at every level.

Standardization sets the standard for experience

Interoperability in healthcare is a foundational concept — one that will continue to define the patient experience as digitization becomes more prevalent across the spectrum of care. The ability to share patient data among systems, with no loss of quality or integrity, creates a level of continuity that directly benefits patients and providers alike. It’s all built atop standardizations like DICOM to create uniformity resulting in accessibility.

Learn more about the importance of interoperability at teleray.com.

Building the Most Secure Data Transmission System

Healthcare data is anything but static. From the moment it’s generated — at the point of an ultrasound scan, for example — health data is instantly injected into an ecosystem where mobility and accessibility are crucial. Personal Health Information (PHI) is endlessly valuable to patients, physicians, specialists, and even emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies designed to help automate critical healthcare functions.

Data transmissibility and interoperability are gaining steam in healthcare, but they can’t come at the expense of data security. Getting data to and from various systems is critical, but not as much as getting it there securely.

Data security in the age of digital healthcare

In an era of regular data breaches, the concept of data security has never been more important for healthcare providers. The sheer volume of healthcare data is increasing rapidly. Providers must safeguard patient information, a challenging undertaking — especially during data transmission, which is critical for ensuring this healthcare data is available where and when it’s needed.

It bears repeating: Data transmission cannot come at the expense of data security. Healthcare providers must look beyond the point of capture and adopt data standards that safeguard PHI at every phase in the chain of custody, including storage and transit. As the healthcare industry embraces interoperability and data sharing, providers must adopt frameworks emphasizing protection.

Cognizant of the data security challenges providers face, TeleRay offers a proactive approach to data security. Specifically, we implement frameworks prioritizing data security across the spectrum of data handling: from capture to transmission to storage. Our telehealth platform is fully DICOM-integrated and HIPAA-compliant, ensuring patient data is secure during transmission. Plus, TeleRay has no stored PHI, which eliminates the risk of sensitive data breaches.

Transport layer security (TLS): protecting health data in transit

Healthcare data is private and valuable, making it a prime target for cybercriminals and bad actors. Protecting PHI at every level — including during data transmission — is critical to maintaining privacy and security. Healthcare providers must implement data standards that not only optimize accessibility and mobility, but also safeguard data against breaches.

Transport layer security is a widely adopted security protocol providing privacy and data security for communications over the internet. TLS encrypts web applications’ communication and servers, including email, messaging, and voice-over IP (VoIP), to protect against data breaches and other cyberattacks. Specifically, TLS encryption protects data by:

  • Validating the authenticity of parties exchanging information
  • Verifying the data has not been tampered with or forged
  • Hiding the data from third parties

TLS doesn’t just mobilize data; it safeguards providers against liability. With the increasing pervasiveness of over-the-air interception, TLS makes certain data gets from one system to another securely — be it physician to physician, doctor to patient, or site to site.

TeleRay’s approach to secure data transmission

TeleRay takes a proactive approach to data security in healthcare by implementing frameworks for protection. To ensure the privacy and security of patients’ personal health information in transit, TeleRay utilizes a variety of state-of-the-art data security measures:

  1. TeleRay uses random AES keys for data packet transmission security. Clients generate a key at the beginning of the media connection, ensuring the encryption keys used to protect PHI are unique and not vulnerable to being guessed or intercepted by unauthorized parties.
  2. TeleRay employs an AES unique cipher with 256-bit keys to encrypt audio and video, making data significantly less susceptible to breaches or interception.
  3. HMAC-SHA1 is used to verify data integrity, confirming the data has not been tampered with during transmission.
  4. Transport layer security (TLS) encrypts both voice and video data, providing an additional layer of protection against interception and data breaches. The core protocols used for media traffic encryption are SRTP and DTLS-SRTP for key negotiation, both of which are defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Overall, our approach to secure data transmission protects PHI at every stage of the data transmission process. By implementing strong encryption and key management protocols, TeleRay helps healthcare organizations maximize the privacy and security of their patients’ sensitive health information.

Protect healthcare data with TeleRay

There’s no substitute for security when it comes to healthcare data, which means there can be no compromising in the systems used to safeguard it. From the point of capture, to storage and retrieval, to transmission and accessibility of any kind, TeleRay’s carefully engineered system is not only secure and efficient, but also seamless and easy to use. It’s what happens when you marry a security-first approach with a commitment to patient and provider satisfaction.

To eliminate fear in the decision process, TeleRay offers an industry-first $2,000,000 breach policy to indemnify their customers against any breach actions. Feel safe, be safe, with TeleRay.

Learn more about TeleRay’s approach to data security at teleray.com.

Proper Reimbursement Coding is Critical for Telehealth Image Sharing Success

Medical coding and billing is a complex, ever-evolving landscape. From contextualizing the nature of services rendered and coding them properly to billing against health insurance and beyond — there’s plenty of room for error throughout the process. Often, it’s the patient who’s left with a headache due to incorrect coding, but providers also stand to lose revenue with each billing mistake. This couldn’t be more evident now, during the rise of telehealth services.

TeleRay is acutely aware of the crucial importance of proper reimbursement coding for telehealth services. It’s why we provide consultancy regarding reimbursement rules, codes, and billing: to help providers streamline their practice management.

The many complexities of medical coding and billing

In theory, medical coding (and, by association, billing) is a simple concept: Correlate the service provided with its representative code so insurance companies can handle claims accordingly. In practice, unfortunately, there can be a wide gap in services administered vs. appropriate coding.

For example, CPT Codes 76801 and 76817 both represent an ultrasound given to a pregnant woman. The difference? The former is for a transabdominal approach, while the latter signals a transvaginal approach. This singular detail distinguishes the procedures and determines how they’re billed and reimbursed by an insurance provider. That same patient may need those images sent to another provider, which may be reimbursable under store-and-forward reimbursement codes.

To complicate matters further, improper medical coding for reimbursement can quickly snowball into a slew of problems, ranging from denied claims to Medicare/Medicaid audits. An incorrectly coded claim tends to result in lost revenue for providers and a negative experience for patients.

Telehealth and image sharing reimbursement as an emerging consideration

The rise of telehealth services has led to increased accessibility in healthcare. Today’s patients can take full advantage of remote technologies to get the care they need, such as remote diagnostics through TeleRay Live or real-time access to medical imaging via TeleRay Reports. Unfortunately, telehealth has complicated the already cumbersome process of trying to code for proper reimbursement.

Let’s say a patient has an appointment with their gastroenterologist to review diagnostic ultrasound scans. How would a provider code this? CPT Modifier 95 indicates synchronous telemedicine services, but a coding professional still needs to determine which code (91200-91299) to modify. There are CMS codes specifically designated for this type of telehealth service as well, including CMS G2010 and G2250.

And did we mention telehealth coding and reimbursement rules are payor and state dependent? It can all get vastly confusing.

Here, again, classifying the wrong code can perpetuate a variety of problems. While telehealth can potentially be an efficient revenue stream for providers — not to mention a convenience for patients — improper coding can erase these positives and replace them with frustrating experiences and outcomes.

TeleRay simplifies provider reimbursement coding

Although there are numerous intricacies associated with the appropriate coding and billing of telehealth services, perhaps the most difficult consideration is the continually changing nature of telemedicine in the eyes of the government and health insurance providers.

It was only recently (November 2022) that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and guidance on telehealth reimbursement. And while the guidance clarified several previously uncertain policies, it also added nuanced complexities to how providers can bill for telehealth services.

Telehealth and image sharing continue to effect seismic shifts for providers trying to offer these services to patients and bill for them efficiently and accurately. It’s why many providers are partnering with stewards like TeleRay for consultancy on reimbursement rules, codes, and billing. Having a partner abreast of current and upcoming changes to telehealth-related CPT and CMS coding, as well as reimbursement policy changes, can give providers an edge in maintaining a healthy telehealth revenue stream.

An opportunity for both patient and provider

Coded correctly, diagnostic telehealth and image sharing services offer an opportunity to expand patient access to critical imaging modalities — while also opening a new revenue stream for providers. But an incorrect approach to reimbursement can just as easily create complications. That’s why it pays to have a partner who understands not only the proper coding approach, but also the evolving telehealth landscape.

Learn more about proper reimbursement coding at teleray.com.

What Impact Does Digital Image Exchange Have on Patient Continuity and Care Coordination?

Patient care, especially for long-term or chronic condition, often involves a team of healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, specialists, consultants, nursing staff, pharmacists, lab personnel, and others. Together, this team provides continuity of care for the patient. But to deliver high-quality care, the team must rely on secure, reliable, and HIPAA-compliant data and medical image sharing to ensure all caregivers understand the patient’s history and current needs.

What is patient continuity and coordination of care?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “Continuity of care is concerned with quality of care over time. It is the process by which the patient and [their] physician-led care team are cooperatively involved in ongoing health care management toward the shared goal of high quality, cost-effective medical care.”

Not only does continuity of care support greater visibility and transparency throughout a patient’s healthcare journey; it also supports early detection, more accurate diagnosis, and improved outcomes. Additionally, continuity of care has been linked to better patient-provider relationships, promoting greater trust and a feeling of safety.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines care coordination as “deliberately organizing patient care activities and sharing information among all of the participants concerned with a patient’s care to achieve safer and more effective care.” Coordination of care involves a team of healthcare workers who provide patient care in coordination with others. Good communication among physicians, nursing staff, lab workers, pharmacy staff, and the patient is vital for providing safe and effective care.

What’s the value of medical image sharing for patient continuity and coordination of care?

Continuity and coordination of care requires collaboration among all providers and related staff involved in a patient’s continuum of care. That collaboration means sharing electronic health records (EHR) and medical images, as doing so allows doctors to understand what treatment strategies have already been used and how the patient has responded. Also, when doctors refer patients to a specialist, or an insurer requires a different doctor, sharing medical information and images is essential. Unfortunately, images and reports are all-too-often separated in the transfer process. In fact, 80% of the time EMR data is transferred, it lacks supporting imagery, and when images are transferred, 80% of the time they are not accompanied by the report.

Traditional file sharing over email, database downloads, or CDs is simple and straightforward. Even graphic or image files such as JPEGs can be shared using traditional file transfers. Sharing medical images, conversely, is not that simple. Transmission and management of medical images must adhere to the standards and protocols of Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM). The internationally recognized DICOM format specifies that images conform to high standards, which allow for accurate interpretation and diagnostics. As a result, radiology departments must use special software to view these images. Unfortunately, sharing these images also presents challenges pertaining to privacy, security, and image integrity. The large sizes of these files also means there are limited methods for storing and sharing.

How does TeleRay’s image-sharing platform support patient continuity of care?

DICOM images have become an essential tool not only for diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare provider, but also for continuity and coordination of care among providers. Of course, all of this requires the ability to store, view, and share medical images. For example, TeleRay’s platform enables providers to attach images to Epic’s patient portal, MyChart. Providers also can add reports into a patient’s electronic medical record, providing more comprehensive patient information. Ensuring DICOM images can be viewed and shared securely and privately — and the process complies with HIPAA regulations — has its own challenges.

DICOM has mechanisms to establish confidentiality for an image’s header data, but not for the pixel data. And although DICOM does provide authenticity and integrity for the pixel data, it doesn’t offer the same guarantee for the header data. Additionally, security and sharing mechanisms must be compatible with a healthcare provider’s IT infrastructure. That’s why providers and radiology departments are turning to the TeleRay platform for simple, secure, and compliant image exchange that supports patient continuity and coordination of care — every time.

If your organization needs a comprehensive solution to ensure safe, secure, and HIPAA-compliant storing and sharing of medical information and images, TeleRay can help. Contact us at 844-4-TELERAY (483-5372) or visit TeleRay.com.

TeleRay RMC Advances Remote Control Modalities

Healthcare is entering a period of seismic change. Worker shortages, an aging population, and a post-pandemic era of healthcare concerns are all shaping what healthcare will become over the next several years. But for every struggle, there’s an innovation waiting to address the challenge, powered by companies committed to staying on the leading edge.

Telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and distance healthcare have all emerged in the wake of the pandemic to allow more patients access to the care they need, regardless of location. Now, TeleRay is excited to announce its contribution to this growing landscape of innovative practices, devices, and modalities. TeleRay RMC is a remote-control solution for enabling diagnostic imaging from anywhere, at any time, for any need.

Take control of equipment (and workflows)

The TeleRay Remote Modality Controller (RMC) is the latest innovation in distance healthcare. Using the USB and standard video ports of CT, MRI, ultrasound, or any other imaging modality, the TeleRay RMC enables complete keyboard and mouse control from remote locations with screen visualization.

Not only can doctors, X-ray technicians, and other healthcare professionals take diagnostic images from anywhere, but TeleRay’s RMC also boasts many other use cases — especially when it comes to system maintenance.

TeleRay’s RMC enables remote troubleshooting, updating, training, general checkups, and more. With it, there’s no need for medical staff to wait hours (or days) for a repair technician to arrive on-site — or spend upwards of $3,000 per visit. And given the requirement for multiple visits in many troubleshooting and repair situations, that cost can certainly compound quickly.

Resolving complex cases through defined protocols

It’s becoming more challenging to find advanced technologists with an expert-level grasp of a wide range of appropriate remote radiology protocols. Their knowledge of operationally complex technology is essential for a variety of healthcare facilities, but finding the right talent and keeping them on-site full time can be both difficult and expensive.

TeleRay’s RMC is poised to help healthcare teams handle complex use cases along with more routine protocols still requiring the advanced know-how possessed only by an experienced technologist.

For example, a cardiovascular MRI is a powerful tool, but only when used by a knowledgeable operator. It relies on operationally complex technology, and the technologist needs a thorough understanding of not just the equipment itself, but also the relevant anatomy of cardiac and vascular pathophysiology.

TeleRay enables remote control of image modalities, allowing technologists to deliver exceptional patient care from any location. In this way, TeleRay is closing the skills gap in this sector of the healthcare industry, with the ultimate goal of improving overall patient care.

Simple, versatile, and effective for remote operation

The TeleRay RMC system is an all-in-one, mobile, and easy-to-use solution for a multitude of issues currently facing the medical imaging sector. Not only does this innovative technology enable remote training and service — saving healthcare teams time and money — there are also many other valuable use cases for TeleRay’s RMC system, including:

  • Patient data accessibility. TeleRay’s fully digital solution provides more accessibility to patient data, for healthcare providers and patients alike. Access to patient data is almost instant before and after scans. It’s also quick and easy to share electronic health records (EHR) information across all touchpoints of a patient’s care.
  • A better patient experience. Digital radiology technology creates an overall better patient experience for a variety of reasons. Not only does it lower costs for healthcare teams — which can be passed on to the patient — it also improves treatment outcomes with the support of artificial intelligence and analytics that are integral to digital diagnostic technology.
  • Patient confidentiality. Digitization enables EHR, a much safer alternative to paper-based systems. TeleRay makes it easier and safer for healthcare providers to send and retrieve patient information, including digital images. With highly advanced encryption and security capabilities, electronic records will be protected.

The next evolution of telehealth services

As the healthcare industry turns to remote patient monitoring and other remote-enabling administration tools, solutions like TeleRay RMC will lead the way in promoting access, affordability, and a higher standard of patient care. From cardiology to oncology and everything in between, imaging is a cornerstone of care. TeleRay is committed to bringing quality care to patients where they are, eliminating barriers wherever they exist.

Learn more about other groundbreaking developments in remote healthcare at teleray.com.