Medical Image Connectivity Company ETIAM Offers DICOM File Tips to Healthcare Professionals

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While medical imaging and patient care are likely strong suits over computer science for healthcare professionals, it pays to know a bit about DICOM and how it can help in health practices.

Since DICOM files can contain patient data, they must be HIPAA compliant or meet privacy requirements for human research studies.

Diagnostic Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) is the standard for integrating different modalities, such as imaging equipment, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), printers, and other accessories. As someone who generates medical images, you deal with DICOM files regularly, whether viewing and analyzing images, or sharing them with students, colleagues, or patients.

A DICOM image file is simply a file type, analogous to .docx files for Microsoft Word files and .pdf files for files created in Adobe Acrobat. Having this common file type allows for easier communication and file sharing in the medical imaging world. Mammograms, colonoscopy images, and neuroimaging sharing are some examples of medical images that use DICOM as the standard.

The DICOM file includes multiple components:

  •     A 128-byte preamble.
  •     A 4-byte prefix that includes the letters D, I, C, and M.
  •     The header, which includes patient information and parameters of acquisition for the image.
  •     The image intensity pixel data, which allows reconstruction of the image.

Since DICOM files can contain patient data, they must be HIPAA compliant or meet privacy requirements for human research studies. Appropriate storage on a secure server and the right DICOM software for the practice can assist with this requirement.

The major drawback of DICOM image files is that they are only readable when using certain operating systems that are on the computers used to take images. Very few personal computers run the operating systems necessary to view DICOM images. One option is to download a DICOM viewer so that you can see the images on your PC or mobile device, although you will not be able to manipulate them.

Another option is to convert the file to a type that is recognized by a Windows-based operating system. These are some options, although it is important to remember that you will not be able to analyze the data the way you can when using a DICOM file.

  •     JPEG (joint photographic experts group): this is small enough to send via email.
  •     TIFF (tagged image file format): image quality is high, but the file size is large.
  •     GIF (graphics interchange format) and PNG (portable networks graphics): they are low-quality images, but have high compatibility. PNG is slightly newer.

Since medical imaging files can be enormous, neuroimaging sharing and other medical image sharing can be difficult. Storing them on a server can allow for easier sharing and collaborative analysis. Medical image transfer can be easier if you take advantage of certain software features:

  •     Batch image processing – Perform the same operation, such as resizing, on the entire set of images at once instead of individually.
  •     Organizing images – Use descriptive folders and subfolders to be able to find your images later.
  •     PowerPoint presentations – Find software that permits you to make several slides at once from a series of images.

ETIAM, a Massachusetts-based medical image sharing company in business since 1997, seamlessly connects medical professionals and patients by creating a platform to share medical studies and images instantly and securely. Employing state-of-the-art security measures, along with helpful, easy-to-use features, we strive to become the leading connecting platform between professionals and patients, by improving patient outcomes, while protecting sensitive medical data. ETIAM has over 500 clients worldwide, with offices in North America and Europe.

ETIAM is the only provider with a comprehensive solution for sharing, discussion, and decision-making around the images that are critical to making the best clinical decisions. Physicians can not only access and read the images, but with ETIAM embedded video teleconferencing, they can discuss and share recommendations in real-time, from any platform, in any location.

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Christopher John
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