A Picture is Worth 1,000 WordsThe Use of Clinical Images in Electronic Medical Records
20 October 2016
accepted: 22 April 2017
20 December 2017 (online)
Objective: To understand how clinicians utilize image uploading tools in a home grown electronic health records (EHR) system.
Methods: A content analysis of patient notes containing non-radiological images from the EHR was conducted. Images from 4,000 random notes from July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010 were reviewed and manually coded. Codes were assigned to four properties of the image: (1) image type, (2) role of image uploader (e.g. MD, NP, PA, RN), (3) practice type (e.g. internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology), and (4) image subject.
Results: 3,815 images from image-containing notes stored in the EHR were reviewed and manually coded. Of those images, 32.8% were clinical and 66.2% were non-clinical. The most common types of the clinical images were photographs (38.0%), diagrams (19.1%), and scanned documents (14.4%). MDs uploaded 67.9% of clinical images, followed by RNs with 10.2%, and genetic counselors with 6.8%. Dermatology (34.9%), ophthalmology (16.1%), and general surgery (10.8%) uploaded the most clinical images. The content of clinical images referencing body parts varied, with 49.8% of those images focusing on the head and neck region, 15.3% focusing on the thorax, and 13.8% focusing on the lower extremities.
Conclusion: The diversity of image types, content, and uploaders within a home grown EHR system reflected the versatility and importance of the image uploading tool. Understanding how users utilize image uploading tools in a clinical setting highlights important considerations for designing better EHR tools and the importance of interoperability between EHR systems and other health technology.
Citation: AC Ai, FL Maloney, T-T Hickman, AR Wilcox, H Ramelson, A Wright. A picture is worth 1,000 words: The use of clinical images in electronic medical records. Appl Clin Inform 2017; 8: 710–718 https://doi.org/10.4338/ACI-2016-10-RA-0180
Human Subjects Protection
The study was performed in compliance with the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, and was reviewed and approved by the PHS Institutional Review Board.
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