Medical Imaging Platforms Give Consumers X-Ray Vision to Healthcare Records

Medical imaging is undergoing a digital transformation away from CD-ROM optical media to digital platforms that remove friction while improving user experience and clinical outcomes.

Speaking with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster for its J.P. Morgan Global Innovators in Payments Series, Rishi Nayyar, co-founder and CEO at PocketHealth, discussed fresh innovation coming to an outdated imaging model that took COVID-19 and a contactless movement to knock CDs off their perch.

Nayyar is building a platform designed to increase patient access to and understanding of their medical scans, enabling them to make taking scans to other providers as easy as firing up an app.

It’s patient-centric mainly because the demand for solutions like this is patient-driven, as providers are slow to trade familiar (if outdated) tech for newer digital systems.

“The way we’ve tried to architect our platform is around minimal change management,” he said, “meaning the patient’s doing what feels natural to them given how they’re used to signing up for other apps. The provider, who really isn’t used to digital solutions, is changing as little as possible, and the physician that gets the images from the patient is doing as little as possible.”

Trafficking in sensitive and highly regulated medical data requires a robust platform that authenticates individuals decisively, which led PocketHealth to use novel registration and sign-in approaches that include the ability to identify things only doctors and patients know.

In addition to basics like name, date of birth, social security numbers and medical record number (MRN), PocketHealth authenticates by asking users to identify things like referring physicians, specific scans performed, and other data that’s hard for fraudsters to assemble.

Once authenticated, users can send scans to other practices via secure links or, in a move that recognizes the non-digital aspect of many practices today, the PocketHealth app can send an ‘access page’ to the doctor’s fax machine with instructions on using the platform.

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Getting Providers Onboard

By using a digital platform to bridge Electronic Medical Records systems (EMRs) with separate Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS), it preserves diagnostic quality, making physicians more comfortable planning treatment from scans obtained in this new way.

“What we realized is the best way to solve it for the patient is to bring the provider into the loop, meaning get them onto the platform,” he said. And somewhat ironically, he added that “we find that the best way for the patient to learn about a system like PocketHealth is from the provider,” although that’s an education process at its early stages.

Getting more practices to use the system is a job of assuring a HIPAA-compliant ecosystem that still has the frictionless feel of a digital solution that simplifies processes safely. That’s being accomplished with partnerships and HIPAA-compliant business practices.

Beyond that, PocketHealth is adding functionality to boost the value of its platform, like the ‘Report Reader’ feature introduced in early 2022 that allows patients to tap or click on anatomical or medical terms in imaging reports and see terms that make sense to a layperson.

Next up, PocketHealth is looking at future features like automated translation, assistive visuals, and eventually having physicians on the platform interacting with patients to help them understand their scans and making obtaining second opinions an easier task than it is now.

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A Promising Prognosis

Positioning this as the start of a trend where patients have more medical literacy, control and choice over interactions with physicians, Nayyar said: “What it means is a world where people have mobility around which physician they pick. They will be entering appointments already educated on what’s going on so they can advocate for themselves and ask the right questions.”

PocketHealth works on a subscription model with monthly and annual options, “and we’ll be experimenting with other ones over time to make sure that we’re as accessible as possible.” The company also has a no-questions-asked policy, where it will waive fees for some patients. 

There’s more money in the model as medical practices begin to join. “Think about a provider sharing imaging with another provider,” he said. “We charge a provider directly for that functionality.” For patients, even if subscribers stop paying, their existing images remain stored and accessible. New images require resubscribing, however.

“We find that our return rate for patients is extremely high,” he said. “When a patient has [new] imaging, north of 80% to 85% of them, depending on the cohort, will go back and sign up for PocketHealth again, which tells us that there was a lot of value provided to the patient.”

The concept has cachet, as he added that when PocketHealth is promoted in hospitals, patient sign-ups are in the 40% range, saying, “obviously at that point, it’s not a niche.” 

It’s all leading up to the next moves for PocketHealth, designed to increase the mobility of patient health data from scans to exams to non-imaging records and more.