Baystate Health System is one of the first healthcare organizations to leverage technology to offer patients quick access to their medical images simply by visiting its patient portal.

Patient portals are a primary way to engage patients in their treatment and overall health. Most portals, including Baystate’s myBaystateHealth portal, enables patients to see their radiology reports and other records, make appointments, and communicate with providers.

But now, Baystate patients can use the portal to view their actual medical images. They can also share them with physicians and others using a secure email with a link to the image and a secure PIN, says Tamara Peterson, senior analyst for Baystate’s Patient and Population Health Technologies.

Diagnostic imaging consumes more than 10 percent of all healthcare costs. Sharing images by using the portal reduces the cost and burden of transporting images and can reduce the need to take duplicative scans.

“Before you’d have to go back to [the radiology] facility and possibly pay for a disk of the images. It was a real headache. This is easier and there’s no cost in the ability to share,” says Peterson.

Providers in Western Massachusetts have been able to view and share medical images since 2015 via their regional health information exchange (HIE), the Pioneer Valley Information Exchange (PVIX). Baystate expanded the capability of its portal to allow patient access to the images by incorporating the portal into the HIE, according to Ken Riley, Baystate’s director of patient and population health technologies.

“There’s an evolution as we get used to the idea of patient engagement,” says Riley.

The project has been in production for the past few months. Baystate is now in the last stage of implementation: educating patients about the existence of the images via the portal. It’s using patient focus groups and has created a YouTube video to explain what the images show and how to view them.

“It’s so amazing to see patients’ faces [when they learn about this capability]. They are so relieved to have immediate access,” says Peterson.

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Baystate’s radiology partner, Baystate Radiology and Imaging, is also getting the word out by informing patients as they leave radiology about the ability to access their images through the portal.

“We want to make patients understand the value of this,” says Riley.

Baystate is the largest health care organization in Western Massachusetts, providing hospital, diagnostic and other services to almost 1 million people. The technology to image-enable the myBaystateHealth patient portal is produced by eHealth Technologies, a provider of image-enabled HIE solutions.

Baystate hopes that other imaging centers will consider offering patients access to their images via the HIE. “The overall goal is that we need more technology that puts patients in control of their data,” says Riley.

The health system is also looking at expanding the program further “It’s the Facebook model. People like the ability of photos and this is the same concept,” says Riley.

For instance, expectant parents could use the portal to view and share fetal ultrasounds.

“The storage of that is negligible and mom and dad want to see this and show their families. It might be an engagement driver. It would entice people back all the time,” says Riley.

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