Laird Harrison

May 06, 2014

SAN DIEGO — Sharing mammograms on a cloud-based service can save time, according to a new study.

In fact, when a radiologist uploads a mammogram to a cloud-based service, another radiologist can receive it 5 days faster than if a patient provides the images on a compact disc (CD), the study shows.

"It sounds like a simple concept, but the idea that someone kind of stands in the middle and acts as a broker really helps," said second author Matthew B. Morgan, MD, MS, a radiologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Dr. Morgan's colleague, research fellow Elizabeth Young, MD, presented the study here at the American Roentgen Ray Society 2014 Annual Meeting.

Comparing a patient's current mammogram with a previous one can reveal changes that are crucial when diagnosing breast cancer, Dr. Morgan explained. "A lot of things look kind of abnormal, but if you can see that they're unchanged over time, you can prevent additional procedures and worries," he said.

Until recently, patients undergoing a mammogram at the University of Utah who had received a mammogram at another institution were asked to provide a CD with those images, Dr. Morgan reported. When patients had difficulty complying, they signed a release form and their mammograms were requested from the other institution by the university.

But even when CDs were provided, they might be unreadable, not well produced, created with software unfamiliar to University of Utah radiologists, or not compatible with the university's equipment.

"There numerous ways for this whole thing to become bogged down," he noted.

Some private vendors are now hoping to facilitate this process by allowing radiologists to upload images that can be downloaded by other radiologists.

The University of Utah uses a cloud-based service called SeeMyRadiology.com. If a subject has had a mammogram at another institution, the university sends a request to that institution to have the digital image uploaded. "If they haven't heard about this product, we tell them about it," Dr. Morgan explained.

To determine whether the cloud-based service was saving time, the researchers compared patients whose mammograms were transferred on CD with whose mammograms were transferred through the cloud-based service.

Patients whose previous mammograms could not be obtained were excluded from the analysis.

In the end, 23 patients in the CD group and 25 in the digital group met the study criteria.

The mean duration from image request to receipt was significantly longer in the CD group than in the digital group (8.17 vs 3.16 days; P = 0.0128).

That time savings is important because people often feel anxiety about mammograms and are eager to know their diagnosis, said Dr. Morgan.

"It is intuitively obvious that cloud-based access to should speed up the recovery of previous studies," said Marcia C. Javitt, MD, section editor for women's imaging at the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Although security and confidentiality issues could be complicated when images are stored in the cloud, digital sharing of images is the wave of the future, she said in an email to Medscape Medical News.

"It is not a question of whether, but rather a question of when, the widespread adoption and implementation of cloud-based digital imaging storage and retrieval will be the norm," Dr. Javitt said. "Ultimately, speed, accuracy, efficiency, and quality of healthcare are dependent on this eventuality."

Dr. Morgan, Dr. Young, and Dr. Javitt have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) 2014 Annual Meeting: Abstract 051. Presented May 6, 2014.

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