Handheld technology offers clinicians great convenience in documenting patient issues with images, but making that information accessible within an electronic health record has challenged the industry.

Software from Mach7 Technologies offers one approach to doing just that. It’s one piece of the puzzle for incorporating unstructured clinical information into electronic health records, which typically use rigid databases to store information.

Burlington, Vt.-based Mach7 recently received a patent for the technology, which, it says, brings capabilities of its enterprise imaging platform to mobile devices. Its iModality mobile application is being used by some Mach7 customers to evaluate how they can use it within their organizations.

Mach7 Technology's Eric Rice

The technology enables clinicians to securely capture medical imaging data—including photos, videos and notes—using a web-enabled smart device, such as smartphone or tablet. These captured images are sent to Mach7’s Enterprise Imaging Platform, and then can be accessed by links within the patient’s electronic medical record.

As more clinicians and staff use mobile devices to deliver care, healthcare organizations are struggling to know how to handle the images, which are not typically of diagnostic quality or based upon traditional imaging standards, such as DICOM, says Eric Rice, chief technology officer for Mach7. “There’s a big gap around how do we manage all those unstructured clinical images.”

The technology enables clinicians to incorporate images from handheld devices into the record. That’s important for some specialties, such as dermatology and wound care, which want an easy way to record images of patient conditions and have them included in patient records.

Mach7’s technology is able to accept common image and media files that don’t meet standards used in clinical settings, Rice says. For example, it can store jpeg-based photos or Quicktime video files.

The use of handheld devices also is expanding within healthcare organizations, Rice says. “There’s been a lot of interest in using them in emergency rooms,” he adds. “If a patient comes in showing signs of a stroke, they can use a video to record behavior or physical effects, upload it, and then it’s available through the EHR. Once it’s in an EHR, an off-site physician can look at it. That’s important, because in treating stroke, time is of the essence.”

Other uses for mobile devices may help caregivers become more efficient in how they provide day-to-day care for patients, Rice says. “Beyond just taking images or using a mobile device for dictating notes and taking video, there are a lot of capabilities in mobile devices. We’re looking at all kinds of ideas and opportunities to expand on it.”

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