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Integrating Patient Photos, Imaging Studies into PACS Reduces Errors

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Digital photos of patients taken at the same time as imaging examinations can be easily integrated into a picture archiving and communication system to prevent errors and improve diagnostic capabilities, according to an article published this month in the Journal of Digital Imaging.Integrating patient photos, imaging studies into PACS reduces errors

According to the authors, the digital photographs--obtained in this case by an android-based camera device--would be "small additions to the imaging study similar to the scout or localizer images that are performed with CT studies.

"We do not intend these digital photographs to entirely replace numerical identifiers, but rather we envision that they would supplement and strengthen these identifiers," the authors added "However, in some cases, such as unconscious trauma patients, these photographs may indeed be the only available identifiers."

The authors said that incorporating photographs into imaging studies has two advantages. First, it will result in a decrease in medical errors. Imaging studies are "prone to mislabeling and misidentification errors," the authors wrote. They also said that obtaining a patient's facial digital photograph at the same time as the diagnostic images can "significantly increase the detection rate of mislabeled studies, thereby decreasing medical error."

By adopting this concept, physicians would also improve diagnostic capabilities, the authors wrote. For example, the ability to include photographs of entry and exit wounds in gunshot victims could aid in the diagnostic accuracy of CT exams.

According to an article, an observer study of this system conducted at Emory University determined that radiologists were able to detect 64 percent of errors in radiograph pairs with patient photographs, compared to just 12.5 percent in radiograph pairs without photographs.

Some of the challenges to the widespread adoption of such a system, the authors wrote, include the possibility that incorporating photographs into the imaging study could distract the reader, provide conflicting information relative to the study and confuse the reader, or lead a more subjective interpretation of the study.

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