Bad News From ASE can give CVIS and PACS Designers Food for Thought



An article in Cardiovascular Business conveys some bad news for the echocardiography world, but it may also stimulate some creative thinking from product development teams around the CVIS and PACS industry.

The article, based on a June 2010 study from the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), said that discrepancies of echocardiogram interpretations are distressingly common in the medical world.  Lack of adequate training is the main cause. Many of the echocardiogram readers did not have level 3 National Echocardiographic Board Certification. And even for those who do, “Our data show that the given hours a year as required by ICAEL [Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories] are not enough,” says Kiran Sagar, M.D., a cardiologist from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Sagar also notes that “More cardiologists have been trained to perform invasive and interventional cardiac catheterization procedures than to accurately interpret heart ultrasound studies.” The result of inaccurate echocardiogram interpretation is usually more echocardiograms or surgery, both of which are expensive.

One solution to the problem is obvious: require more and better training. But it will not be easy to transform requirements into reality. It takes a long, long time to learn how to interpret the nuances of echocardiograms, and it’s harder than ever for busy doctors to find time for training.

CVIS and PACS developers may be able to help.  While they can never take the human factor out of the process, they could – perhaps – strive to improve image quality so that interpretational mistakes are less likely.  They could also work with echocardiogram trainers to develop a built-in (and updatable) database of expert interpretations and case studies that are easily accessible for any user of the technology.

We’ll follow the ASE and see what changes come about as the result of their study.  Stay tuned.

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