Interoperability in Healthcare: The Future of Medical Image Exchange Capabilities

When it comes to exchanging medical imaging and information, many healthcare systems still follow the old methods for sharing health records. 

For many of them, this means exchanging information over-the-phone or through fax. Many patients also end up having to carry their medical images on a CD or DVD. Some healthcare systems also lack the capability to exchange information from different EHR systems. As a result, a growing number of health information exchanges have started to implement medical image exchange capabilities into their systems. 

In our latest article, Iron Bridge explores how medical imaging exchange is changing and will improve interoperability in healthcare for the future. 

The Importance of Achieving Interoperability in Healthcare

Seamless Data Exchange Plays a Critical Role in the Healthcare System

x-ray image of a patient's chest

A complete and accurate medical record is an essential tool for healthcare providers. Without one, they will struggle with providing a comprehensive and reliable medical treatment for their patients. Many primary care physicians and specialists are in constant communication with each other regarding treatment for their patients, who also need to stay in the loop of their health data.

That’s where healthcare interoperability comes in. Interoperability is defined as the extent to which systems can successfully share and exchange data. By incorporating interoperability in healthcare, physicians can achieve improved patient outcomes. A recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that an interoperable healthcare system can help prevent illnesses, reduce health care costs, and lessen clinician burden.

Common Obstacles to Providing Efficient and Streamlined Care

Some of the most common issues physicians face when treating their patients include:

  • Figuring out where their patients were previously treated
  • Consuming the mass amounts of data they have on their patient and picking out which parts are relevant to their current case
  • Accessing text, notes, or medical images in a timely and efficient manner
  • Attempting to navigate through numerous regulatory requirements while avoiding financial penalties from non-compliance 

Benefits of Interoperability in Healthcare

Interoperability in healthcare addresses the aforementioned issues in a number of ways, such as:

  • Offering transactional data exchange for patient test results and treatment plans
  • Lowering physician burnout by minimizing the number of administrative tasks they have to complete in addition to their medical duties
  • Reducing costs for faxing and manual workflows
  • Providing data aggregation tools that are accessible to physicians and healthcare facilities

Current State of Medical Imaging Exchange in the United States Healthcare System

Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities today still rely on faxes and phone calls to exchange important patient information. 

Some hospitals also store medical imaging on CDs or DVDs. This storage technique presents the risk of dealing with delays and unwanted expenses. Many times, the information on these disks is not fully interoperable. This usually results from varying data storage standards for these old CDs. 

As interoperability in healthcare continues to grow and develop, it is critical that these providers are aware of these up-and-coming innovations. 

How Medical Imaging Exchange is Advancing Interoperability in Healthcare

Medical Imaging Exchange Should Be a Priority for HIEs

medical team performing surgery on patient

A growing number of healthcare providers are starting to be able to facilitate the exchange of MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, mammograms, and ultrasounds among each other. 

How this is Changing Interoperability in Healthcare for the Better

Previously,  healthcare providers had to log into a separate operating system or call external facilities in order to send their images via phone or fax. Now, all of these images are available on a secure web-based portal. With just a few clicks, healthcare providers can access important medical images online. Providers who use separate EHR systems from each other can also access the same images through the same portal. Future of Medical Image Exchange in the U.S.

Another partnership involving Carequality, the Radiological Society of North America, and the Sequoia Project recently launched an Imaging Data Exchange Implementation Guide Supplement. This guide was built to improve the current technical standards for medical image exchange. The supplement is based on the Carequality Interoperability Framework, which focuses on offering healthcare providers network-based access to medical images. This access is designed to fix the system’s current efficiency and quality issues it typically encounters when it is exchanging medical images. 


Efficient and seamless health information exchange plays an important part in providing high-quality patient care. However, many healthcare providers continue to struggle with finding a streamlined system that can assist them with safely storing information. Iron Bridge offers cutting-edge IT solutions designed to improve interoperability in health care systems. To learn more about our service offerings and healthcare IT solutions, contact the team at Iron Bridge today.

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