Clinical photographs play a major role in the healthcare industry and are widely used in areas such as clinical documentation, research, publication and education. Hundreds of thousands of clinical photographs are produced each year in the health sector and it’s increasingly crucial to manage these images effectively and safely to assure effective governance of often highly sensitive, clinical photographs of patients.
Medialogix have many clients in the healthcare industry
Our NHS clients are currently all Medical Illustration departments, where FotoWare Digital Asset Management (DAM) is employed for the management and viewing of clinical photographs taken by professional clinical photographers, doctors and allied health staff. Clinical photographs of patients are routinely taken to assist with diagnosis, monitor progress, plan treatment and provide educational material. Hundreds of thousands of clinical photographs are produced each year and the requirement for effective management of these images continues to increase with the development of technology and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). There are many opportunities for centralising image management resources for other departments using ‘standalone’ storage and image capture devices and also within the Private Sector.
FotoWare DAM has solved the problems with management of clinical photographs
Prior to using DAM, clinical photographs were managed via manual processes which stemmed from traditional film photography procedures used prior to the advent of digital photography. Patient details were documented in paper books, spreadsheets or job databases and kept separate from the photographs. Digital photographs were printed out and inserted in paper case notes with very ineffective (if any) controls in place to prevent unauthorised access, copying and distribution. There were multiple margins for error and loss to occur and quite often, prints were missing from patient notes and were either unavailable for patient care or filed after patients had been discharged. With the growth and availability of digital photography, timely availability of clinical photographs often did not meet requirements, a problem exacerbated due to reduced staffing and increased workload pressures.
Employing FotoWare DAM has completely modernised the workflow of clinical photography and has enabled strict governance procedures to achieve legal compliance in terms of Data Protection and GDPR. Due to improved workflow, photographs are now available at the point of care, risks are minimised through proper control of access and the availability of full audit trails of activity. Printed photographs are only rarely required which minimises the risk of loss and unauthorised viewing. Patient details, diagnosis and consent provide useful metadata as the basis for processing images.
Common problems that prospective customers in the healthcare sector are experiencing without a DAM:
Without a DAM, customers are still employing labour intensive systems in an attempt to manage digital assets using manual processes. Proper control over access to images cannot be achieved and many photographs are still unavailable at the point of care. There are many ‘halfway systems’ in place where digital photographs are being printed, then scanned back into Electronic Patient Records (EPR’s) – literally doubling the workload! When photographs are required for teaching, doctors are putting them on USB sticks and taking images home to process and import into documents – there is no audit trail!
It is well known that many doctors and allied health staff are taking photographs on personal mobile phones which poses many security risks due to images being stored on personal cloud services outside of the EEA which breaches the GDPR and DP laws. This also causes significant governance issues around the use, storage and availability of images. Image sharing via WhatsApp is also a growing problem. In response to this, many hospitals are now employing mobile devices for doctors and nurses in huge volumes of 300-500 at a time or allowing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) systems with camera functions enabled. This requires the use of a DAM to ensure that resulting images and metadata are managed securely and centrally, making them available to those that are authorised to view them.
Some hospitals have decided to employ EPR’s or radiology systems as a means of image storage. Although they do at least provide an image repository, they do not provide image management functionalities or the specialist access controls required and sadly, the workflow process often generates additional work in an environment already under pressure.
Risk is the single biggest problem for organisations that do not have a proper solution in place – risk of significant financial fines due to breach of GDPR & DPA, risk of poor organisational reputation, risk of negative effect on patient care, risk due to the lack of centralised resources…
The main uses of DAM in the healthcare industry:
FotoWare Digital Asset Management ensures full auditable control of clinical photographs via the configuration of several different control mechanisms based on: the medical specialty caring for the patient; the sensitivity of the images; the consent the patient has given regarding the use of their images. This configuration ensures that images are viewed on a ‘need to know basis’ and are processed in accordance with the patient’s permission.
FotoWare also supports the upload of images from a variety of different sources, enabling integration with mobile phone Apps to ensure that even staff working in remote community locations have the same resource available to them. Medialogix have recently developed a secure Clinical Uploader App which can be integrated with FotoWare DAM so that images and metadata are imported and processed automatically, ensuring they are managed securely within the centralised DAM process.
The DAM solution can be the primary image viewing interface, or it can be used in conjunction with an EPR to provide seamless availability with the proper access controls in place. The workflow for image processing is immediate, intuitive, automated where appropriate and reduces the administration burden of clinical photographers and clinicians alike.
Which organisations in the health sector need a DAM solution?
If they take clinical photographs, they need a solution!
How can organisations in the health sector determine what the return on investment is for a DAM system?
The return on investment is both quantitative and qualitative. Images are available at the point of care, enhancing the patient pathway. Workflow efficiencies make better use of staff resources. Proper governance reduces the risk of significant financial penalties relating to breaches of legislation-the cost of a DAM solution is a fraction of a potential penalty!
About the author:
Lisa Fisher has been part of the Medialogix team since April 2018 in her role as Business Development Manager, working primarily within the health sector. Previously she worked as a Clinical Photographer within the NHS for 19 years, the last 9 years of which, were as the manager of a Medical Illustration Department. Therefore she is very familiar with the challenges and requirements of image management and the governance of highly sensitive clinical images. Having always been an advocate of secure and effective workflows within her previous role and within the wider clinical photography profession she is now able to influence this further through promotion of DAM and Medialogix products to provide a comprehensive solution to NHS and health sector clients.
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A related article was also published here.