What Inquiring Radiologists Want to Know


Radiologist examining scan imagesThe theme of RSNA 2017 is “Explore. Invent. Transform.” That theme may raise more questions than answers for the thousands of radiologists and other clinicians attending the conference and exhibition this week at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Anticipating some of the pressing questions that may be on the minds of attendees, Change Healthcare attempted to answer them by picking the brain of Patrick McLaughlin, M.D., the company’s new senior vice president and chief medical officer. Here’s what he had to say:

What industry trends are you seeing that will influence the next wave of healthcare IT?

Dr. McLaughlin: I see the convergence of existing, segregated data silos from diagnostics, medical records and healthcare planning into a single ecosystem. I see an enhanced role for scientific data aggregation and clinical guidance at the point of care to allow clinician’s to better deal with the volume and depth of information they now have to process on a daily basis.  I also believe artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly will penetrate our processes, disrupt traditional clinical care pathways and allow us to identify new and previously undetected and more complex pathways of disease and treatment response.

What do you think Google can bring to the healthcare industry and to imaging?

Dr. McLaughlin: Google brings the resources, momentum and strong track record of disruption required to drive changes in our traditional healthcare paradigms to the industry. It is hard to think of a better positioned global aggregator of data. One thing that excites me about Google is the global rather than local ramifications that could be realized from its increased involvement in advancing human health. In regards to imaging, it is clear that Google, and specifically the Google Brain team, is driving and facilitating a large amount of artificial intelligence research and initiatives in the radiology community.  Tensorflow, Google’s AI software library, went open source two years ago and is becoming one of the most widely used platforms for performing image-based AI research. This fact will be clear to anybody who reviews the RSNA 2017 book of abstracts or attends RSNA scientific sessions this year. It is hard to imagine a world in two to three years time in which radiologists and patients are not routinely benefiting from the work that the Google Brain team has brought to the imaging community. I strongly believe Google should be recognized for this contribution.

How can organizations increase the value of imaging within their enterprise strategy?

Dr. McLaughlin: In order to increase the value of what we do, a mission-critical priority should be to assist radiologists from performing routine, monotonous and potentially error prone image detection tasks. Consistency, reliability and agreement will improve, and the radiologist’s time that is liberated should be firmly invested in increasing lines of communication with referring clinicians and even patients. The value and clinical impact of imaging will not be increased beyond a certain ceiling point if radiologists do not routinely engage in referring clinician education and seek better quality assurance feedback on imaging discrepancies.

How are Big Data and advanced analytics important to an enterprise imaging strategy?

Dr. McLaughlin: Big Data and enhanced analytics, of course have a fundamental importance to any enterprise imaging strategy. Big Data and enhanced analytics will help us circumferentially improve our efficiency in bookings, resource management, staffing and financial planning. As a doctor and a practicing radiologist, I also believe that Big Data and enhanced analytics will also have a central role in how we acquire, process and interpret images on a daily basis and will help us communicate actionable findings directly to the relevant subspecialty clinicians where they will have the most impact. Leveraging the most advanced machine learning processes, healthcare teams will be able to identify more intricate disease patterns at an earlier time point in the patient care pathway. The accuracy and detail of these predictions will be on the basis of the volume and fidelity of data that is collected, a situation that will greatly play to the strengths of an enterprise versus standalone imaging architecture.

What tools and processes are most critical for fostering clinical collaboration and quality care?

Dr. McLaughlin: When it comes to clinical collaboration and patient care, we cannot create enough tools or innovative applications. Improving communication with other clinicians and collaborating with them to improve the quality and safety of care is the direction our field needs to go. New tools or applications to facilitate that will be essential. We need tools and applications that give radiologists, referring physicians and every member of the care team real-time visibility into the life cycle of an imaging study at each step—from when the test was scheduled to when the results were communicated to and acted upon by the care team. We also need tools and applications that close the loop on the process so radiologists know how what they did affected the clinical and cost outcome of the episode of care.

Patrick McLaughlin, M.D., is senior vice president and chief medical officer for Change Healthcare.





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