Radiology Roundup: Emerging Trends in Technology and Communication


Scientist looking at 3D rendered graphic scans from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, close up

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.

These five articles take a look at the emerging trends in radiology, from new roles for radiologists to new tools for more effective diagnoses. If you’re not excited yet, read on.

1. Radiologists Take on Bigger Role in Diagnosing

Physicians at NYU Langone Medical Center are using technology to break down the communication barriers between radiologists and attending physicians. The health system invites radiologists to play a more active part in the day-to-day care of patients, especially patients who are undergoing daily scans.

Radiologists use online video chat to communicate with doctors, review scans, and discuss treatment of the patients. The initiative also includes enhanced reporting, enabling radiologists to embed images directly in reports and add annotations.

Read the full article to see how doctors and patients have benefitted from the initiative.

2. Tomosynthesis Beats Chest X-Ray at Guiding Decision-Making Around Pulmonary Nodules

A new study from the Duke University Medical Center indicates digital chest tomosynthesis (DCT) is an even more powerful diagnostic tool than it was previously thought to be. DCT proved to be more effective for detecting spots on the lung than conventional chest radiology.

The study concludes that DCT is indicated over other forms of chest radiology both for making case management decisions and detecting pulmonary nodules. Previous studies found that tomosynthesis was valuable for thoracic radiologists, but this is the first study to include non-thoracic specialists, indicating that DCT may have clinical value regardless of specialization.

3. Patients Want Imaging Results Stat — Can Portals Deliver?

One of the hot topics at HIMSS this year was extending the health system IT environment to include patients. Web-based portals can give patients instant access to radiology reports and facilitate communication with care providers.

A new study from the University of Michigan sought to understand whether patients would use the portals, how they preferred to get information from the portal, and how portals could be improved for patients and clinicians. The group who conducted the study concluded that portals are currently a valuable patient communication tool, and recommend ways to further improve the dialog between radiologists and patients.

4. Radiology Tracked in Real Time Reduces Delays in ER

The emergency room is a hectic, fast-paced environment where efficiency and accuracy are equally important. In a case study presented at SIIM 2016, a research team from Indiana University Health presented evidence that automatic workflow tracking has a measurable positive impact on wait times, patient safety, and efficient use of resources.

The workflow tracker the research team deployed was a dashboard that listed when exams had been ordered, when they were performed, when dictation was started, and when the final reports were available. Participants report the system has led to fewer delayed or lost exams and less time spent tracking down studies.

5. Initiative Drives PACS Use in Point-of-Care Ultrasound

Emergency physicians have not adopted PACS for storage as quickly as their counterparts in radiology. Many still rely on thermal-printed hard copies or non-networked hard drive storage for images. Researchers at the Denver Medical Health Center just completed an initiative to persuade their physicians to use PACS for their ultrasound studies.

The researchers used reminders and small incentives to encourage PACS use. They found that once physicians tried using PACS storage, they saw the clinical advantages and were inclined to make it the default. In all, the study saw a jump from 10% to 75% of studies being stored on PACS.

As these articles show, the overarching trend in radiology right now is more (and more efficient) communication. Whether it’s communicating findings to patients on a web portal, conferring with other physicians via video chat, or just storing test results in a more accessible storage solution, better communication to help drive better outcomes is a trend that’s here to stay. And that’s something worth getting excited about.

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