Surely by now you have become familiar with the role of informatics in health care. If not, you definitely have participated in the practice of creating, storing, finding, manipulating and sharing information.
The newest buzz in imaging is AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) imitates human thinking to solve problems. Machine learning is an application of AI whereby information is supplied for the machine to learn for itself. This is a step further than IBM’s Watson, the super computer. Will robot radiologists soon analyze your x-rays? No, AI will not replace radiologists anytime soon, but the technology will dramatically affect the way we deliver outcomes. The most prevalent application of AI has been in Computer Assisted Diagnosis (CAD) in breast imaging. It has been around for 20 years with different opinions as to its success. The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is spotlighting AI at the annual meeting in Chicago in December. The RSNA is a huge meeting where over 40,000 professionals attend to see and understand the latest imaging technologies.
My experience over the past few weeks colors my opinion of the introduction of more technology into the imaging marketplace. I understand that vendors must keep creating product if they want to sell equipment. But what is your experience with the latest technology application? Do you have an iPhone X? Did it come with instructions? Troubleshooting? What to do if you cannot speak where it can hear you? Instructions for using technology come in an online manual. A real person to tell you what commands to use to achieve a function is unavailable or perhaps they could be reached by phone in another country. No more instruction manuals. If you are looking the manual up online, be sure to have a second device such as your phone or tablet to execute the directions you are reading online on your computer or other device.
We are all suffering from the overload of too much information. The numbers of images that are routinely collected by CT and MRI scanners have increased exponentially. Imaging interpretation means review of volumes of images in the same study.
The ability to sort patient data in an electronic EMR and capture the significant information from the different inputs that are centralized in one data storage will create a different way to work. Workflow efficiency and increased patient throughput is one reachable goal of technology. With the implementation of the patient adding information to their own medical record via a patient portal, exiting information is increased as well as information from imaging, lab, and the hospital information systems (HIS) Add to that list the pharmacy and drug information as well as the medical summaries from different physician specialties and technology becomes a winner for the patient. I am thrilled not to have to call the doctor’s office to obtain the results of my medical tests and I can just log on and get a copy of my eyeglass Rx. I can access my physician’s instructions anywhere there is Wi-Fi.
The current trends in emerging technologies for radiology are arriving at light speed. Radiology is not new to telehealth. It is more than 20 years old. The difference is the change in telecommunications that are faster and less costly. It allows rural and smaller facilities to communicate and manage their acute and chronic care patients in ways that were impossible previously. The addition of wireless portable equipment has added a brand new dimension for point of care procedures. The addition of 3D imaging and virtual reality has affected the abilities of the patient to understand their diagnosis and treatment through clinical education.
One of the major disruptions in imaging is the combination of technologies in a hybrid imaging suite. The convergence of imaging in a surgical/procedure suite integrates several hardware/software options to provide new potentials for better patient outcomes. Future technology advancements may incorporate multiple disciplines for tagging patients who may not know they have a disease because clinically it is not yet evident. Will we be able to justify the cost of applying this technology and will it be accepted by the medical community? This is the conundrum of the future.
In the meantime, employment in the health care sector continues to involve many more skills than equipment operation. Change accelerates each year. Time to prepare!