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Thread: Method for "tagging" images files with clinical data?

  1. #1
    mattk22359
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    Question Method for "tagging" images files with clinical data?

    Hi. I work for a large hospital. We have a project we are just starting that will include uploading digital images to our electronic medical record. These images are clincal documents that are used, for example to document clincial procedures among other things. I actually work in the information technology department and am not a clinician myself, although one of my project managers is managing this project.

    One of the requirements our clinicians have identified for us is the need to add certain clinical and/or patient identifying data elements to each image file. For example, they want to include the patients medical record number and a few other data elements (specifics TBD) such as diagnosis, body location (left arm), etc.

    Another requirement is that this identifying information be added to the image files as early in the workflow as possible (preferably when the image is being captured) to minimize the possibility of errors if images were tagged later. Example, adding patient As medical record number to patient Bs image file.

    After doing a little reading it seems as though there are at least a couple of different digital image metadata formats (EXIF, IPTC) that are used to add metadata to image files. I've also started reading about the use of a camera in a tethered configuration which might help facilitate adding this metadata at time of capture.

    What we are trying to determine at this point is whether or not there is a package of hardware (camera) and software that might make this process of grabbing, tagging, and saving the image to a PC drive straightforward vs. cumbersome for the clinician.

    Once the files are tagged and uploaded onto a file share our electronic medical records system already has the ability for the clinician to open the patients elec medical record, browse to find the image file on a local or network drive, and attach the image file to the record. It is the first part of the workflow involving the capturing, "tagging" of clinical/patient information, and moving the file to the PC drive that we are not sure how to deal with at this point.

    I hope this is an appropriate forum to ask this type of question. If it is not my appologies in advance.

    Any insight into how one might tackle such a need and/or where I might go to explore various options, software companies I might contact, etc. for doing this would be very helpful.

    Thanks!
    Matt Kennedy

  2. #2
    Subscriber Member kit laughlin's Avatar
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    Re: Method for "tagging" images files with clinical data?

    Matt, I have no idea why no one has responded to this post but AFAIK, any of the pro softwares allow editing of metadata. I do not know enough about metadata to say definitively which groups of fields are non-editable, but I assume that the EXIF data is not, ordinarily. OTOH, the information you need to attach can be put in the ITPC fields, I would have thought. And again, AFAIK, all cameras' files allow the modification of this set of fields; this is done in Bridge, Capture One, or Aperture (the softwares I know reasonably well).

    The problem I see, though, is the non-security of these fields; I do not know how fields can be locked once populated, however; in your professional environment, this would be an essential aspect to understand. hth, kl

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    Re: Method for "tagging" images files with clinical data?

    Quote Originally Posted by mattk22359 View Post
    Hi. I work for a large hospital. We have a project we are just starting that will include uploading digital images to our electronic medical record. These images are clincal documents that are used, for example to document clincial procedures among other things. I actually work in the information technology department and am not a clinician myself, although one of my project managers is managing this project.

    One of the requirements our clinicians have identified for us is the need to add certain clinical and/or patient identifying data elements to each image file. For example, they want to include the patients medical record number and a few other data elements (specifics TBD) such as diagnosis, body location (left arm), etc.

    Another requirement is that this identifying information be added to the image files as early in the workflow as possible (preferably when the image is being captured) to minimize the possibility of errors if images were tagged later. Example, adding patient As medical record number to patient Bs image file.

    After doing a little reading it seems as though there are at least a couple of different digital image metadata formats (EXIF, IPTC) that are used to add metadata to image files. I've also started reading about the use of a camera in a tethered configuration which might help facilitate adding this metadata at time of capture.

    What we are trying to determine at this point is whether or not there is a package of hardware (camera) and software that might make this process of grabbing, tagging, and saving the image to a PC drive straightforward vs. cumbersome for the clinician.

    Once the files are tagged and uploaded onto a file share our electronic medical records system already has the ability for the clinician to open the patients elec medical record, browse to find the image file on a local or network drive, and attach the image file to the record. It is the first part of the workflow involving the capturing, "tagging" of clinical/patient information, and moving the file to the PC drive that we are not sure how to deal with at this point.

    I hope this is an appropriate forum to ask this type of question. If it is not my appologies in advance.

    Any insight into how one might tackle such a need and/or where I might go to explore various options, software companies I might contact, etc. for doing this would be very helpful.

    Thanks!
    Matt Kennedy
    I assume you are talking about images created with a digital camera, a P&S or a DSLR.
    In broad terms and using consumer available software, i think tethered shooting, getting the image straight into a package like LR, and in that sw package add metadata following some protocol wrt use of metadata fields and use of text elements, keywords, etc. If the images are of type JPG, the metadata added is recorded in the image file itself, and can be read by any application that can handle jpg files and can read metadata. Whether IPTC is sufficient is depending the requirements. But it is a good start as it is widely supported. It is also wrt to intended meaning of metadatafields not a clear cut case.
    In the above text i refer to LR, this can be any other program that can handle the image format and can add metadata. I have little experience with other programs that meet your indicated needs.
    Tethered shooting is an advantage here i think, as it means the image is directly stored on the PC and loaded into the image program, thus avoiding an extra set of user actions needed when using memory cards.

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