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Zero-Footprint Viewers: Zero Security Risk?
Ironically, what has been a vulnerability for many healthcare IT systems — security — is less an issue for the users of zero-footprint viewers. Just as these viewers require no software downloads to view images and patient information, neither do they store these data. When using zero footprint viewers, patient data reside on the dedicated server and are viewed on mobile devices typically as an encrypted Web page. If the Internet connection breaks, access to the patient data ends. Consequently, security efforts have to focus just on the servers.
“Zero-footprint viewers offer a unique opportunity to ensure the security of patient data,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, founder and CEO of Musculoskeletal Imaging Consultants, a teleradiology service specializing in reading spine and sports medicine images. . “Because no patient information resides on the handheld device, the patient is not compromised, if the device is lost or stolen.”
Smith uses a zero-footprint viewer of his own creation, the Virtual Viewbox,™ to send images and patient information to referring physicians who use his teleradiology service. Like other zero-footprint viewers, the Virtual Viewbox is a Web application that requires no software download. Unlike some others, however, it cannot support user instructions to reformat scan data. The images are essentially snapshots — selected images annotated to illustrate specific findings and stored on a dedicated server as part of the radiology report.
Referring physicians pay nothing for the technology or its use. They just have to ask whoever or whatever facility scans their patients’ images to send the images to Dr. Smith’s practice, which specializes in spine imaging and sports medicine. In this way, the Virtual Viewbox serves as a marketing tool for Musculoskeletal Imaging Consultants.
The Virtual Viewbox was developed under the direction of Dr. Smith, who hired engineers specifically for the task. The engineering team is part of a separate company he founded and named for the technology, Virtual Viewbox LLC.
Many of the zero-footprint viewers on or nearing the market were developed by small- or mid-size companies, some of which provide their products to different vendors for rebranding or resale.
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