Since Wilhelm Roentgen created the first X-ray image in 1895, few technologies have had more influence in medicine than those related to clinical imaging. It is quite remarkable if we compare the MRI, CT and X-ray technologies of only 20 years ago with the current ones. Fast innovation makes the image better and easier. Still, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of some amazing advances that promise to completely reshape the way doctors diagnose and treat patients.
As with all advances, these changes pose new technical and operational challenges. However, at a time when the demands of radiology departments are increasing and providers are running out, they can also play a key role in efficiently delivering a high-quality patient experience. In particular, I believe four categories have enormous potential to improve both provider workflows and patient care: augmented reality, business imaging, artificial intelligence, and mobile applications. Here is a more detailed view of each, as well as its possible impacts.
1. Augmented Reality (RA)
Unlike virtual reality, which completely immerses users in a virtual world that excludes the physical world, AR places digital elements in a live view of the physical world. This is an important distinction. It means that RA gives us the ability to superimpose digital images (e.g., a computed tomography) on real-world objects (e.g., the human body). Thus, while RA may be more commonly associated with video games such as Pokémon GO, surgeons are discovering that it can be an incredibly powerful tool for more accurate surgical navigation.
In the past, surgeons had had to fly a little blind during the procedures. Punctual accuracy is almost impossible due to the unique variations of each individual patient. Without AR, surgeons cannot be 100% sure that their incision, injection, placement of hardware, etc., is as accurate and minimally invasive as possible.
In contrast, AR technology it allows surgeons to accurately overlay 2D, 3D, or 4D digital images of a patient on their body in the form of a highly detailed hologram. This perspective allows surgeons to quickly plan and achieve the most direct route to their goal. With faster and less invasive surgeries, patients should experience fewer complications and better outcomes.
2. Company image
As with many other things in medicine, imaging systems have remained largely segmented and isolated by specialty. Orthopedic images are usually housed in a system with one type of viewfinder, for example, while cardiovascular images are stored in another file with a different viewfinder. In some specialties, such as wound care, images are often printed and scanned in the electronic health record (EHR).
Consequently, providers have to manually search through completely separate files using disparate technologies to see all the images of a patient, who, frankly, few have the time or access to do so. This is what makes the business image a game changer. By bringing all the images of a patient together in one place with a universal viewfinder, the business image eases the burden on providers. It puts a more complete view of the patient in front of them.
Easier access to more inclusive imaging information not only simplifies providers ’workflows, but allows more time for direct patient care. In addition, a more holistic view of each patient helps to improve diagnoses and treatments.
Finally, business images also improve HIPAA security and compliance by putting all images in a secure file that the IT department can easily manage. Currently, most medical facilities have to try to manage separate online and offline image files spread across the entire organization.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI)
So much has been written about AI that it is sometimes difficult to separate facts from fiction. What is certain, however, is that it has allowed for two immense image advantages.
The first is IA ability to help radiologists locate what they are looking for and see it more clearly. With a database large enough and the right software to enable lifelong learning, AI can help software find and mark anatomical parts that are otherwise hard to find. Locating the small intestine or a specific vessel, for example, is easier when AI is used to profile the intestine or vessel within an image.
The second way AI benefits radiologists is by making readings faster. In practice, AI can do a lot to improve efficiency, performance, and diagnostics by running algorithms through imaging and signaling areas where radiologists want to pay close attention. In some cases, it might even help radiologists detect abnormalities that might not otherwise be detected. An AI-based diagnostic tool, for example, has helped radiologists diagnose COVID-19[feminine[femininein images where it is sometimes difficult to see.
4. Mobile applications
The image has been mobile for several years. However, the accelerated use of mobile technologies makes it easier and faster for everyone (radiologists, referral providers, patients) to share and view images. Referral physicians can receive a text message at the time a statistical report is made, for example. In addition, the universal HTML5 viewers available on any device, at any time, allow more timely access to images. Patients can view their images on their mobile phone as soon as they leave the imaging department.
Accelerating image workflows at all levels can ensure better performance from a healthcare system perspective. Most importantly, however, it can reduce the time patients anxiously wait for their doctors to get the information they need to develop the best care plans.
At a turning point
As noted above, these transformative imaging technologies have their fair share of challenges in addition to their promise. The fact that images are growing exponentially larger, for example, requires a greater commitment to secure cloud technology to facilitate transfers. Broadband must also be kept up to date. Especially in rural areas, inadequate digital transfer and storage capabilities can abruptly negate the benefits of advanced imaging.
In addition, the number of people entering the medical imaging profession is declining, although image volumes are increasing. In some situations, staff shortages could be as detrimental as lack of technology.
Therefore, we need to rethink traditional imaging operations. We need to invest in a global framework to improve interoperability and information exchange. We need to invest in the next generation of imaging professionals and optimize the impact of technology on provider workflows and patient care.
The industry is rapidly approaching a crossroads in its ability to adopt innovations in image. However, the advantage is huge if we keep the patient experience firmly at the forefront of each new impressive imaging advancement.
About Paul Shumway
Paul Shumway is the client ‘s successful senior vice president and co – founder of Novarad, a leader in medical imaging software development.