The aim of the eRöntgenpass project – an electronic x-ray record – is to know more about our own health. For a long time, medical imaging data was only recorded for each individual examination, but not cumulatively. The eRöntgenpass now combines all data regarding radiation doses in the form of a personal x-ray record. Styrian residents carrying an Austrian citizen card can use this service immediately.
Day in, day out, we are exposed to ionising radiation. It comes from the earth’s crust and in the form of so-called cosmic radiation from outer space. This ever-present ionising radiation can lead to changes in cell structures and thus eventually to cancer. Our exposure to medical sources of radiation, such as x-ray examinations, should also be carefully considered. Consequently, x-ray examinations should only be undertaken when really necessary.
Secure online information
The electronic x-ray record (eRöntgenpass) is a newly developed service being offered on the patient web portal run by the Styrian hospitals organisation (KAGes) (https://www.patienten-portal.kages.at/). Using a secure online portal, patients in Styria can access a summary of their previous x-ray examinations carried out in any Styrian hospital run by the organisation, and the radiation doses to which these examinations have exposed them. It is intended that the record will also include data from external radiological institutes and private hospitals in the future. The Styrian eRöntgenpass database architecture is designed to be easily integrated into Austrian electronic health records (ELGA) via a simple interface.
The information in the patient portal is presented in graphic form and is easy for anyone to understand. It also offers interesting facts about radiology and radiation in general, putting levels of exposure from medical radiation into context by comparing it with natural radiation and other sources of radiation exposure.
Weighing the benefits and risks
Where natural radiation exposes the human body to a mean effective dose of 2.9 milli-sievert (mSv) per year, a simple x-ray of the leg bones, for example, exposes the organism to an average of only 0.01 mSv. In contrast, an x-ray examination of the colon, or a CT scan of the pelvis, involves far higher doses of radiation. However, anyone smoking 30 cigarettes a day is exposing their body to an extra radiation dose of around 0.3 mSv per year. Information such as this allows us to evaluate the benefits and risks involved in medical x-ray examinations. It is this empowerment which is central to the EU PALANTE project, which provided funding for the Styrian eRöntgenpass, one of seven European pilot projects. The aim of PALANTE is to use ICT to enable patients to make well-informed decisions about their own health.