Patients Eager To Access Medical Images Online

Posted on July 19, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A new study suggests that making medical images accessible online to patients might be a fruitful method for getting patient engagement up in time for Meaningful Use Stage 2, reports EHR Intelligence.

The study, by IDR Medical and Carestream Health, surveyed 1,000 patients who had recently had an imaging study done, in an effort to examine patient views of patient portal use prior to engagement requirements falling into place with MU Stage 2.

It found that patients were very interested in accessing medical images — as well as the clinical notes accompanying the images — with 68 percent saying it was “extremely likely” they would do so if given the opportunity, according to EHR Intelligence.

Survey respondents were particularly interested in using a portal to access their children’s medical images, with 90 percent saying that they would do so if they could. Meanwhile, 82 percent of people wanted to view their own images.

The researchers assumed that older patients would be less likely to use an online portal, but that other patients who frequently get images taken or already access health data online would probably access a portal often.

While elderly patients aged 71 and above were indeed less likely to be interested in portal use, patients aged 50 to 70 had the most positive attitude toward patient portals.

Not surprisingly, patients who already had access to a patient portal were also very positive about access imaging studies online, the site notes. When given a choice of methods by which they could review imaging studies, 79 percent of patients said that an online portal would be their first choice, either by itself or in addition to hard copies of images and reports.

While some providers have worried that they’ll have trouble getting patients to interact with online patient portals, it seems clear that putting images and interpretative notes online can help, if this data is any indication.

Now, some clinicians have worried that at the extreme — an overly-engaged patient who raises time-consuming questions over trivial details — online patient portals will turn out to be a headache.

But to date, as my colleague Jennifer Dennard notes, the portal-fueled pesty patient isn’t materializing. Perhaps both the portal and the patients have matured to the point where they can support each other.