Diagnosing What’s Ahead for Radiology in 2017

2016-12-07
 

Radiologist speaking about precision medicine and value-based careArtificial intelligence, value-based care and precision medicine dominate the talk and technology at this year’s RSNA meeting.

The late-November/early-December Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America typically serves as a harbinger of the issues that radiologists will be facing in the year ahead, and the 2016 edition of the RSNA meeting that just concluded in Chicago was no different.

Topping the list of imaging issues for radiologists and radiology departments across the country in the year ahead will be artificial intelligence, value-based care and precision medicine, based on the plenary session topics during the six-day meeting attended by nearly 50,000 radiologists, exhibitors and others.

The theme of this year’s meeting was “Beyond Imaging: Maximizing Radiology’s Role in Patient Care.” To achieve that laudable goal, radiologists and radiology departments should embrace technical, financial and clinical innovations, as Scott Galbari, vice president of marketing and portfolio for Change Healthcare’s Imaging and Workflow Solutions business unit, noted in his blog post from the RSNA meeting.

If it was up to influential physician thought leader Eric Topol, M.D., radiologists could maximize their role in patient care by merging their medical specialty with that of pathologists into a combined specialty called “information specialists” and let artificial intelligence read and interpret diagnostic images.

In a Viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association during the RSNA meeting and widely discussed by presenters and attendees alike, Dr. Topol and co-author Saurabh Jha said, “The information specialist would interpret the important data, advise on the added value of another diagnostic test, such as the need for additional imaging, anatomical pathology, or a laboratory test, and integrate information to guide clinicians. Radiologists and pathologists will still be the physician’s physician.”

In his opening plenary session address, Keith Dreyer, D.O., said AI, or machine learning, will be a huge clinical asset to radiologists as the industry transitions to value-based care models from fee-for-service medicine. Dreyer, vice chairman of radiology computing and information services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said AI will be most effective in imaging technologies to detect diseases.

In his RSNA blog post, Ashish Sant, general manager for radiology for Change Healthcare’s Imaging and Workflow Solutions, said, “It may take some time for Dr. Dreyer’s vision to become a reality, but when it does, it will augment and greatly assist radiologists in driving more value from imaging procedures.”

Value, as virtually all presenters at RSNA noted, will be how all new and existing imaging technologies and techniques will be measured moving forward. To measure value, which Vivian Lee, M.D., CEO of University of Utah Health Care in Salt Lake City, defined in her plenary session address as the ratio of quality and service outcomes to cost, radiologists and radiology departments need data. Collecting and analyzing data on imaging quality, accuracy, efficiency and costs will enable clinicians to measure value and take the necessary steps to improve outcomes for patients and lower costs for payers.

One strategy aimed at driving more value out of health care services provided to patients is precision medicine. As a number of presenters explained at RSNA, imaging services provided by radiologists and radiology departments can play a key role in the development of customized treatment protocols for individual patients. One way is using advanced imaging technologies to measure the physiological effects of new drugs and new treatments on individual patients during clinical trials.

Another way, as described by Tomer Levy, general manager for workflow and infrastructure for Change Healthcare’s Imaging and Workflow Solutions, in his RSNA blog post is integrating imaging technologies with other patient information systems like EHRs, EMRs and personal health records. Such integration will give radiologists and radiology departments the ability to create a comprehensive and complete view of an individual patient, Levy said.

“That comprehensive and complete view will greatly assist in developing customized treatment plans for individual patients,” Levy said.

As for the treatment plans for radiologists and radiology departments in 2017, they almost certainly will include artificial intelligence, value-based care and precision medicine.

Learn more about how Change Healthcare’s suite of radiology solutions can help radiology and radiology departments deliver value-based care now and into the future.

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