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Towards Tomorrow: Emerging Trends in Radiology
In this article we discuss how emerging technological innovations in Diagnostic imaging are redefining how radiologists connect, collaborate and communicate information. Topics covered include the rise of Telereporting, workflow automation and need for vendor agnostic technologies to deliver on the interoperability promise.
The radiology industry itself is facing enormous pressure driven by a global shortage of radiologists. Increasing demand for services, driven by a rise in chronic disease and an aging population, burnout of medical staff and insufficient trainee numbers are all contributors.
Healthcare organizations must continually adapt and modernise in order to meet this growing demand for services. As a consequence the future of radiology is being shaped by technological innovations that not only aim to improve
diagnoses but deliver outcomes in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
This article explores emerging technologies which are redefining how radiologists interact, collaborate, and exchange information, providing an overview of how technologies are redefining the industry.
1. Workflow automation and AI
In the face of growing workforce shortages in the radiology industry, the adoption of workflow automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools represent solutions for enhancing efficiency in radiology workflows.
Workflow automation can significantly streamline the radiological process by efficiently managing routine tasks such as appointment scheduling, patient follow-ups, and data entry. This shift allows radiologists to focus their expertise where it's most needed – in the interpretation of complex imaging and patient care.
AI's role in radiology is transformative - not only by offering tools that assist in more accurate and rapid image analysis. AI algorithms can be leveraged for tasks like order scheduling and triage, clinical decision support systems, detection and interpretation of findings, postprocessing and dose estimation.
By integrating AI and automation into their workflows, radiology departments can effectively mitigate workforce challenges while enhancing the overall quality of healthcare delivery.
2. The Rise in Remote Collaboration and Teleradiology
Remote consulting and Telereporting allows radiologists to provide expert opinions and collaborate with colleagues regardless of geographic location.
The rise of Telereporting continues to have a profound impact on the radiology landscape. The past decade has seen continued growth in teleradiology, with compound annual growth estimates over 13% per annum predicted in the coming decade1. Some of the drivers for this growth includes:
Increasing Demand for Radiological Services: Telereporting allows healthcare facilities to access radiology expertise more easily, addressing the demand-supply gap.
Geographic Disparities: Many regions, especially rural and underserved areas, often face a shortage of radiologists. Telereporting can bridge this gap by enabling remote radiologists to provide timely interpretations and reports, improving patient access to diagnostic services.
Cost-Efficiency: Outsourcing radiological interpretations to remote experts can lead to cost savings and increased efficiency and faster diagnoses.
Technological Advancements: The growth of the Telereporting market is closely linked to advancements in technology. High-speed internet, cloud computing, and secure data transmission have made it feasible to transmit large medical images and reports quickly and securely.
Remote collaboration is also showing benefits in acute care settings. New care models (such as Telestroke services) leveraging audiovisual technology, can provide virtual care to peers at rural and remote locations to aid clinical decision-making for improved patient outcomes.
3. Advanced Visualisation Techniques
Advanced visualisation techniques in radiology include sophisticated technologies and software applications that are transforming the way medical images are analyzed, interpreted, and utilized for patient care. Techniques are able to harness the power of computer algorithms, artificial intelligence, and multi-dimensional (eg. 3D) reconstruction to provide radiologists with a more comprehensive and accurate view of anatomical structures and pathological conditions.
These advanced visualisation techniques are able to enhance radiology efficiency and reporting accuracy in several ways:
Faster Diagnosis: The ability to manipulate and interact with 3D images reduces interpretation time, allowing radiologists to make quicker and more precise diagnoses.
Enhanced Planning: For surgical and interventional procedures, advanced visualization tools aid in pre-operative planning by offering detailed 3D reconstructions, facilitating a more strategic approach.
Improved Communication: Radiologists can use advanced visualization to create 3D models and interactive presentations, making it easier to communicate findings to patients and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Increased Accuracy: By providing a more comprehensive view of anatomical structures and abnormalities, these techniques reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation and improve diagnostic accuracy, ultimately benefiting patient care.
4. Cloud-Based Platforms and Collaborative Workspaces
Increasing imaging volumes and radiologist shortages have pushed the demand for a distributed workforce. In turn this has necessitated the integration of imaging and workflow tools.
Cloud technologies continue to revolutionize how radiology practices store, access, and share information. These platforms facilitate collaborative workspaces where radiologists can easily share images and reports, discuss cases, and get second opinions.
Some expected advantages of adoption include:
- Faster more accurate diagnoses
- Secure image access, anywhere, anytime
- Patient-centered care
- Improved clinician and patient experience
In order for collaboration technologies to deliver on their promise, vendors must adopt an ecosystem approach to address the fundamental issue of interoperability across multiple systems, as we discuss below.
5. Patient-Centered Communication
A continued trend in healthcare is the rise of the empowered consumer. Patient-centered care in radiology involves providing patients with easier access to their imaging results and simplifying the communication of findings. Patient portals and mobile apps are becoming more common, allowing patients to access their reports and images online and facilitating better patient-physician communication.
Published literature shows a majority of patients prefer the ability to access both radiological reports and images with one-half of the patients viewing their imaging results online, with adoption being higher in women and younger patients2.
The rise of the empowered consumer has contributed to the notable rise of the ‘‘second opinion’ market. This trend reflects patients' growing desire for reassurance and validation regarding their medical diagnoses and treatment plans. Patient requests for second opinions are frequently cited as a reason for patients needing to access healthcare information3.
The rise of the second opinion market in radiology also presents challenges, such as the need for interoperable systems to share patient data securely and efficiently, and ensuring that second opinions are integrated effectively into patient care pathways.
6. Ecosystems and Vendor-Agnostic Partnering
As more Radiology businesses consolidate through mergers and acquisitions, so does the need to integrate diverse technology stacks across geographically distributed businesses. Interoperability between vendors becomes critical for effective communication across the various systems. According to HIMSS, delivering on interoperability remains fundamental to ‘unlocking the future of health and healthcare’ 4.
“Creating an interoperable health IT ecosystem is the key to unlocking the future of health and healthcare.”
HIMSS - Interoperability Progress and the Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
The development of ecosystems and vendor-agnostic partnering across the industry allows for seamless integration of different technologies and platforms, regardless of the manufacturer. Growing radiology businesses are increasingly reliant on industry to adopt an open ecosystem approach as a means of integrating diverse technology stacks. This approach enables a unified and interoperable IT framework, essential for optimizing patient outcomes in such complex organizational structures.
Other benefits include:
- Streamlined Integration of business units: After mergers, integrating different IT systems can be a significant challenge. Smooth data flow and operational consistency across the newly formed entity is crucial.
- Uniform Patient Care Standards: By integrating disparate systems, large radiology businesses can standardize patient care protocols and procedures, ensuring consistent and high-quality care regardless of the location or the original system.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Vendor-agnostic systems provide the scalability needed to accommodate the growth and diversification typical of businesses post-merger, enabling them to adapt to changing needs and technologies without being locked into a single vendor's ecosystem.
- Cost-Effective Expansion: For consolidating businesses, a vendor-agnostic approach can be more economical. It allows the utilization of existing systems across the new entity, minimising the need for extensive new investments.
At Foxo, we believe the healthcare industry needs to expand the vision of what interoperability means, if healthcare is to achieve a truly connected ecosystem. Interoperability must not only be thought of in terms of connecting clinical systems, it must also relate to interoperability between communication systems. The ideal future state should not only entail the ability to share and access data in real-time but also securely communicate about the data in real-time, in a connected path. This fundamentally, is what ‘secure communication’ in healthcare is.
The future of Radiology points towards a more integrated, efficient, and patient-centric approach. The adoption of workflow tools leveraging AI, the rise of Telereporting, advancements in visualisation tools, the use of cloud-based platforms, patient-centered communication strategies, and the development of interoperable ecosystems are all contributing to a transformation in how radiologists communicate.
As these trends continue to evolve, they hold the promise of enhancing the quality and efficiency of care and improving patient outcomes.
- Grandview Research. Teleradiology Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Ultrasound, MRI, CT, X-ray), By Report (Preliminary, Final), By End-use (Hospital, Ambulatory Imaging Center, Radiology Clinics), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 - 2030
- Becker, C et al Communicating with patients in the age of online portals- challenges and opportunites on the horizon for radiologists. Insights Imaging. 2022 Dec; 13:83
- Halaska C, Sachs P, Sanfilippo K, et al. Patient attitudes about viewing their radiology images online: preintervention survey. J Med Internet Res. 2019;21:e12595. doi: 10.2196/12595.
- HIMSS - Interoperability Progress and the Challenges and Opportunities Ahead