After a radiology exam is performed, the images are saved for future review and can be archived in many different ways. Most current radiology exams are digital and saved electronically into a computer networking system at the imaging facility and subsequently electronically transferred to an off-site image “warehouse” for future retrieval. For medical images, this service is known as the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS). Hard physical copies of X-rays are usually stored in image file rooms at the imaging facility and can be obtained by the patient.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patients have the right to view and obtain their medical imaging studies. The creation of electronic health records (EHR) has enabled patients to access their health care records online, including medical images and radiology reports. Patients that have had medical imaging performed in a Mercy Health Muskegon imaging facility can access their medical images and radiology reports through the Mercy Health Patient Portal. Having online access to electronic health records enables patients to be directly involved in their health care and decision making. Patients also have the ability to share medical information and medical imaging with other medical providers improving patient-physician communication.
It is helpful to have a portable copy or online access to your medical images and radiology reports available for physician appointments. Access to this information improves patient-physician communication and patient care by reducing unnecessary imaging and potentially decreasing the time to accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Additional reasons patients may want to keep or share their medical images include:
- Seeking care from a specialist physician
- Relocating and receiving care at a different facility
- Patient is unable to provide an accurate medical history during a medical emergency
- Monitoring the progress of treatment(s) of a specific disease condition through imaging
- Decrease unnecessary imaging
- Patients can be directly involved in future health care decision making
- To keep a personal record of medical imaging exams received by a patient
After a radiology exam is performed, the images are saved and transferred electronically onto a computer usually at the facility where the imaging exam was performed. By law, patients have the right to review, copy and share their medical information including medical images and radiology reports. Patients may request a copy of their past or current medical images and must sign a medical records release form. The medical image copies are usually transferred onto a CD which can be viewed on most newer computers. Other storage formats for image copies include an electronic storage device such as a USB compatible flash drive, electronic transfer to an online data storage site (cloud services) or occasionally a physical hard print copy of an X-ray.
Radiology reports containing the results of the imaging exam are usually available in 1-2 business days. Typically these reports can be viewed by physicians as part of a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) through a private secure online website. Patients have access to radiology reports, if performed at a Mercy Health Muskegon imaging facility, through the Mercy Health Patient Portal. Physicians and patients can also request a mailed or faxed copy of a radiology report by contacting the support staff at the imaging facility.
The CD or other portable electronic storage device containing medical images usually have built-in programs to make the storage device compatible with most computers so the the medical images can be viewed on nearly all newer computers. These storage devices can also be used to transfer copies of medical images obtained at imaging facilities not affiliated with Mercy Health Muskegon onto the computers, or PACS, at a Mercy Health Muskegon imaging facility. This allows a radiologist to compare radiology exams performed at many different facilities enabling the radiologist to more accurately diagnose a disease condition.
Patients can also create a personal health record (PHR) which is a collection of healthcare-related information that is collected, updated and stored by the patient in a secure location. This information may include past medical history, current disease conditions, medications, allergies, surgical history, medical images and radiology reports. Having access to this important healthcare-related information allows patients to more effectively communicate with medical personnel providing health care.
A FREE online service provided by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) allows patients to transfer, store and access their medical images through an online personal health record (PHR). Visit the RSNA Image Share website here to set up an online PHR today. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-IM-467-4274.