Remote reading has emerged as a key way to support social distancing, protect vulnerable radiologists and others in the hospital while maintaining patient care during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, remote reading ensures seamless interpretation capabilities in emergency scenarios, according to an open-access article published ahead-of-print by the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR)1.
Healthcare IT departments face a host of challenges today – from providing radiologists with the right tools at home, to providing a secure environment to work from. According to research and analysis experts at Gartner2, the most significant security challenges are the scarcity of technical security staff, legal and regulatory compliance requirements, and the steady onslaught of new threats.
A common approach for remote reading is to provide radiologists with a virtual private network (VPN) connection either; on their personal PC or laptop, via a corporate-owned and managed workstation, or in combination with virtual desktop solutions.
Here are some of the risks when working with VPN connections.
While this option is easy to set up, it introduces several security risk. These are the primary concerns, outlined by Morey Haber3.
A corporate-owned and managed workstation would minimize the risks mentioned above and it operates as a regular PACS workstation for the radiologist. It does mean that, from a distance, the workstations need to be managed, updated and supported to ensure secure access to patient images and data.
Performance can still be issue as most of the time VPNs are running over a shared internet connection with the organization, meaning the necessary performance cannot be guaranteed due to lack of upload bandwidth of the healthcare organization.
With solutions like Citrix or VirtualBox, healthcare organizations create a virtual desktop on the home computer of the radiologist to provide access to the applications of the healthcare organization. From a security standpoint, this is a strong choice and relatively easy to implement. However, they are not suited to read studies in PACS given the large datasets, nor can they support window leveling, 3D, or speech recognition tools.
While using a VPN, installing local software and providing radiologists with a dedicated PC can address some of the security and performance issues related to remote reading, this approach remains open to risk and requires significant support from IT departments.
With the security challenges, the need for multiple medical imaging software applications, and significant bandwidth for radiologists, the adoption of cloud-based technologies is beginning to gain ground. There are several reasons for this:
A web-based, cloud PACS solution, such as PACSonWEB, can eliminate the security risks of using VPN, does not require the installation of any software to view high-quality DICOM lossless images remotely, and is available via any web browser on any device connected to the internet. With a true cloud PACS radiologists can:
The advantages of this technology for healthcare will help organizations to keep and simplify their current infrastructure, lower the management tasks and overall costs, and provide a solution for remote work without compromising security or patient care.
Download our whitepaper "Remote radiology reading: How to manage security risks and ensure optimal performance" to learn more about managing security risks.