Techs in Medical Imaging – How Should They Be Used?

2011-07-18
 

Medical Imaging techsIf it can be automated, it will be automated. That’s what social analyst Daniel Pink wrote in his best-selling book A Whole New Mind. He also wrote that this simple fact is forcing people in developed countries to rethink job categories, and a recent article in the Journal of Diagnostic Imaging shows that radiologists, cardiologists and other medical imaging professionals are doing just that.

The article focuses on post-processing, or the reconstruction of images to make them cleaner visualizations. Turning a piece of medical imaging into a sharp 3D image, for example, is already “automatable” in some sense, and increased processing speeds – which are inevitable – will make automation even easier.

But is this a good thing? And who should be investing time in post-processing to make sure it’s working well – a radiologist or cardiologist, or a technologist?

One answer: yes, this is a good thing because it can free radiologists and cardiologists from extensive post-processing. “Time spent in generating advanced visualization output is time lost in reading an additional scan. The majority of this output does not require the radiologist’s personal attention to generate,” says Krishna Juluru, MD, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.  Moreover, it’s the technologists, not the radiologists, who are trained to manipulate images, so it makes sense to put more post-processing on their shoulders – especially since increased processing power will inevitably mean more time spent mastering new medical imaging techniques.  More reliance on technologists, Juluru concludes, will lead to a more efficient radiology practice.

Another answer: no, this is not a good thing because essential radiological expertise will be lost in the processing. Reproducing images well requires a radiologist’s knowledge of anatomy, says Reuben Mezrich, MD, PhD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Mezrich also warns that moving traditional radiological duties to technologists will result in radiologists losing ground to technologists and other physicians who are trained in medical imaging.

The article in the Journal of Diagnostic Imaging doesn’t draw a conclusion. But this much seems clear: radiologists, cardiologists and other medical imaging professionals have to face the changes that advanced computing power is bringing to their jobs. And at the very least, that will mean a rethinking of traditional job duties.

 

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