A year ago, the FDA okayed the first mobile medical imaging app for use in diagnostics. Cleveland-based MIM Software had tried for 2 1/2 years to persuade the agency that its Mobile MIM application was up to the task.
But the reaction by radiologists has been mixed and even contradictory. Some thought the images available via a tablet wouldn’t be sharp enough to rely on for accurate diagnoses – they’d rely instead on their workstations. Others thought the personal device images might, in some situations, be better than their workstations.
In the latter publication, the chief technology officer of MIMS Software, Mark Cain, detailed a case in which tablets loaded with the app could be extremely valuable. As a patient is being rushed into emergency care, surgeons could look at medical images right away instead of waiting to load a CD. That would allow them to determine if it’s a Level 1 or Level 2 case and consult with other physicians who also could access the images.
In the same article, Paul J. Chang, MD, FSIIM, a radiology professor and vice chair of radiology informatics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, disparages the quality of the resolution on tablets, smartphones or mobile devices as below that of a workstation.
Conversely, Elliot K. Fishman, MD, FACR, Johns Hopkins University Department of Radiology, Baltimore, MD, says in the Applied Radiology story that smart phones and tablets allow for quicker downloads of images and the images aren’t downsized, as they are on a workstation. In some instances, the personal device would be better than the desk-bound system.
Disagreements on technical capabilities can be resolved easily compared to the debate about how radiologists will interact with their tablets or smartphones when they need to make diagnoses. Chang is worried that some of his peers will get sloppy and think it’s okay to review images while playing golf. He’s worried, too, about his own tendencies, saying if he had a mobile device or tablet at home and got a call for an evaluation at 3 a.m., he’d take a quick look and go back to sleep. Now when he gets such a call, he’s forced to get out of bed and boot up his home-based workstation. The built-in delay forces him to spend more time waking up, which better prepares him for the task at hand, he says.
Dr. Fishman counters that by having ready access to medical images wherever he is, he’s better able to contribute his views to patient care than otherwise.
We’ll continue to follow this issue and report on it as events unfold, and you can keep up to date as well by subscribing to the Medical Imaging Talk blog via RSS feed or email. Or follow us on Twitter.