Medical Imaging Roundup: 5 Articles on Trends in Diagnostic Imaging


Diagnostic Imaging TrendsAt 116 years of age, Emma Morano is the oldest woman alive. She is, to the extent of our knowledge, the last living person born in the 1800’s.

There have been huge advances in technology between 1899, when Emma was born, and today. But one fundamental difference between her childhood world and ours is especially thought-provoking. In 1899, there was no data in the air.

No WiFi. No cell phones. No television. Not even radio waves. There was data running through phone lines and telegraph wires, to be sure — but none surrounding infant Emma’s crib.

Imagine how many invisible gigabytes of data you walk through every day. It’s a powerful indicator of how much the world has changed, even in the 16 years since Ms. Morano’s 100th birthday.

The modern world can be defined by how much data we create and consume, and health systems are no exception. Better capture, analysis, and exchange of patient data are key factors in adopting value-based care.

This roundup of articles on diagnostic imaging trends is a snapshot of the interplay of data and health care. Each article looks at an aspect of the risks, challenges, and opportunities that arise when hospitals attempt smarter data management.

1. Radiology Tracked in Real Time Reduces Delays in ER

One hot topic at SIIM 2016 was how imaging departments can use software to improve workflows. At the conference, researchers presented the results of a tracking trial at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. They developed a simple dashboard that gave real-time information of the status of radiology cases in the ER. The dashboard tracks when an exam is ordered, performed, the results are dictated, and when the report is available.

Prior to the trial, 5-10 examinations per day were lost or delayed in the workflow. As Diagnostic Imaging reports, the monitoring helped reduce delays, as well as improve safety and efficiency.

These findings are similar to a recent trial with Conserus Workflow Intelligence™, in which the implementation of workflow prioritization and tracking was found to reduce turnaround times for ER imaging.

2. SIIM: Radiologists Often Prefer More Monitors

According to a recent survey of the Association of University Radiologists, about half of all workstations currently have two monitors, slightly less than half have only one, and less than 3% have more than two.

Given the current variety in workstations, how many monitors do radiologists prefer to have? The answer seems to depend on the age of the radiologist. The older the respondents were, the less likely they were to say another monitor would be useful. The survey also found radiologists have fewer open applications on their screens, regardless of how many monitors the workstation had.

As a whole, the respondents were split almost evenly between whether additional monitors would be helpful, harmful, or neutral. It seems the perceived ease of use is less dependent on the actual monitor setup, and more on the way radiologists use applications.

3. Data Sharing among Hospitals Increased in 2015, Yet Barriers Remain for Using and Integrating Data

The latest data brief from the Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT says that the rate of data exchange between hospitals and providers went up substantially between 2014 and 2015. Hospitals sending data outside their organization rose from 78% to 85%, while hospitals receiving data went up from 56% to 65%.

According to the brief, there are still challenges for hospitals in availability and interoperability. Hospitals still struggle with finding relevant data when they need it, and many reported data frequently was unusable because of the format in which it was transmitted. Check out the article for the full results of this extensive look into the data sharing issue.

4. Providers Poised to Ratchet up Spending on Clinical and Business Intelligence Tools, HIMSS Analytics Says

Analytics tools are one way health systems can seek the efficiencies they need to control costs and improve patient outcomes. However, according to a new survey of 155 health care leaders, fewer than half use clinical and business intelligence tools. A majority of the respondents also said they are unsure about investing in these tools in the future.

Despite the lack of current plans to invest, however, HIMSS Analytics Director of Research Brandon Fitzgerald believes there is significant growth potential in analytics solutions in the next three-to-five years. Once early adopters are able to uncover actionable findings from their analysis, health systems will be more likely to explore clinical and business intelligence tools.

5. How Do Breast Density Laws Affect Radiology Practice?

There are currently breast density notification laws on the books in 28 states. In those states, the legislation has begun to change the way radiologists process breast screening. A study by researchers at the University of California found that a third of breast imaging facilities have started new breast screening programs, including the use of whole-breast ultrasound (WBUS) and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). An additional 40% now practice formal risk assessment.

The study attributes the relatively low level of DBT and WBUS use to a number of factors. These advanced screenings are often not covered by insurance, and there is also a lack of consensus on what type of imaging is the most conducive to better patient outcomes.

Head researcher Dr. Lina Nayak notes that even though the adoption of advanced screening techniques has been slow, the laws have spurred progress. According to Nayak, these laws represent a chance for radiologists to pursue a more personalized model of care for breast screening.

There’s no going back to the quiet, data-free world of 1899. And though data management and analysis can pose challenges to health systems, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future. As health systems continue to refine how they collect and use patient data, imaging clinicians will have more information than ever to help guide diagnoses and pursue better patient outcomes.

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