Created by a collaborative team at the Rady Hospital’s Helen and Will Webster Foundation 3D Innovations Lab, or 3DI Lab, this freely available software is being touted as the first-ever tool of its kind.
Why it matters
With Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine standardization software, or DICOM doctors can use the standard picture archiving communication system imaging to import and export individual patients’ 3D models.
Previously, 3D imaging was accessible only with specialized software.
Called Media2DICOM, the software developed at Rady allows image technicians to either convert videos of patients’ 3D models or the 3D datasets themselves into standardized DICOM files.
The files are then embedded within patient medical records and accessible through the healthcare facility’s PACS, where other patient media, such as computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans, are also available.
Physicians can access the 3D models and review their patient’s unique physiology to better inform care and save time.
“We designed this tool in-house to provide technicians with a quick way to convert 3D models and other files that exist outside of the hospital’s PACS into DICOM files that can be accessed directly by physicians,” Dr Justin Ryan, director and research scientist of the 3DI Lab, explained by email.
According to the hospital’s announcement, 3DI Lab’s DICOM standardization software was designed to foster better outcomes for patients and their families and has the potential to positively impact the lives of thousands of children.
“With different healthcare systems using a range of different 3D modeling techniques, our team recognized a key challenge when it comes to interoperability and sought to create a solution that would benefit physicians, patients and other hospitals,” he added.
The software is intended for use by hospitals, academic institutions and veterinary centers for research purposes only, according to the hospital’s website.
Of note, “Media2DICOM pulls all the relevant information from the reference DICOM, the data will be handled in plaintext. It will be important for administrators to ensure proper role-based access to the referenced DICOMs,” according to the software’s quick start guide.
“As a leading healthcare institution powered by technology, we ensure rigorous testing and validation of our code by internal and external parties to reduce the risk of impact to patients,” Ryan explained. “Due to HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, we felt it was appropriate to note that DICOM currently does not support encryption for the entire workflow.”
He added that, by being clear about when and how plain text is used, hospital IT staff can ensure appropriate security controls and protocols are in place.
Media2DICOM supports multiple formats and is available for download.
The larger trend
Cloud-based PACS have opened up previously siloed imaging systems native to radiology groups, cutting costs and allowing doctors to access patient imaging studies from their offices, homes and remotely.
“It removed the need for us to rely on patients to transport their imaging back and forth between their providers on outdated discs which were susceptible to damage or loss. Healthcare should work for the patient and not expect the patient to work for it,” David-Paul Cavazos, then CEO of Belleville, Kansas-based Republic County Hospital and now CEO of Hodgeman County Health Center in Jetmore, Kansas, told Healthcare IT News in 2018.
However, last year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned about PACS’ security vulnerabilities.
DICOM, developed 30 years ago, is vulnerable to exploitation, said HHS. The agency’s Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center identified thousands of PACS servers in need of patching.
DICOM-based exploits include manipulation of medical diagnoses, scan falsifications and malware deployment or sabotage, according to HC3. Cybercriminals could “compromise connected clinical devices and laterally spread malicious code to other parts of the network undetected,” if vulnerable PACS have not been patched, the center said in its alert.
On the record
“Ultimately, Media2DICOM will make it easier for physicians to access patients’ 3D models, giving them a full view of their patient’s anatomy prior to complex operations, which will foster better outcomes for patients,” said Ryan. Healthcare IT News