“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” With apologies to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” many radiologists today struggle with a similar problem. While trying to find nuggets of useful information within EMRs, many may be saying to themselves, “Data, data, everywhere, nor anywhere to look.”
Consider for a moment the positive strides in information technology and imaging that have occurred over the past several years. Clinicians in all departments have magnitudes more data at their fingertips to help them make better decisions. But having all of the information in the world and not being able to find the one specific piece you need to make a concrete diagnosis is like being stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean and needing a glass of water to drink.
It’s an exciting time to be a radiologist. Advances in technology allow for higher-quality scans and easier ways to share findings with the rest of the health system. Radiologists are being encouraged to take a more active role in patient care, becoming full participants in the flow of information throughout the system and to patients.
Granted, the shift to value-based care and increasing provider consolidation introduce new challenges for radiologists. But they also hold the possibility of new opportunities to contribute to better patient outcomes.
In 2011, officials at Alberta Health Services (AHS) made a startling discovery. A number of CT studies in a rural community had been misinterpreted, raising questions about patient care. As a result of the incident, the province’s Minister of Health called for a thorough examination of quality assurance practices in radiology.
To find a solution that would meet the needs of AHS was a significant undertaking. They are Canada’s largest provincial health system, providing services for more than four million people. The system includes 130 imaging facilities that range from high end acute care trauma centers to small rural community hospitals and health centers. In these facilities, 1800 technologists perform more than 2.8 million exams per year, which are then interpreted by 300 radiologists working in 16 different professional organizations and groups.
Adopting a mindset of continuous improvement in quality and interpretation workflows is necessary shift for radiology to achieve a successful shift to value based care. But this change and the transformation of best practices from theory to reality is not always easy to accomplish. A good quality system is about consistency, visibility and education and about ongoing improvement.
At 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.