RSNA 2019 proves informatics is inevitable

Ever since the introduction of picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) in the 1970s, digitization and informatics – using technology to analyze health records and improve patient outcomes – have impacted the field of radiology. If the 105th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) proved anything, it’s that this trend will undoubtedly continue.

The only question is: How much will informatics redefine the role of the radiologist going forward?

Radiologists to informaticists

According to Christopher Roth, MD, associate professor of radiology and vice chair of information technology and clinical informatics at Duke Health, radiologists today have turned into informaticists, whether they like it or not.

“In our profession, there is a distinct and growing need to create machine-readable content,” says Roth. “This includes not just linking DICOM and non-DICOM images and video to EMRs, but also preparing imaging files for AI and machine-learning algorithms.”

This trend toward imaging informatics is being driven at both the enterprise level and department level.

For example, hospitals and health systems view the adoption of informatics strategies such as enterprise imaging as a way to drive care coordination; better leverage existing IT investments (such as the EMR); ensure effective governance and standardize modalities, storage, viewers and workflows.

AI won’t replace radiologists, but radiologists who use AI will replace those who don’t.

Radiologists value these attributes as well, but also see informatics as a key way to demonstrate enterprise leadership in imaging best practices, improve their visibility into non-radiology images and make their practices more valuable in the broader clinical care cycle.

AI augments radiology efforts

As illustrated by an earlier blog post, artificial intelligence (AI) was a dominant topic at RSNA 2019. Consensus at the event seemed to align with the now common saying: AI won’t replace radiologists, but radiologists who use AI will replace those who don’t.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are largely viewed as ways to help radiologists become more productive by eliminating many of the mundane manual tasks that often bog down their workflows. Similarly, the technology can help augment their diagnosis and decision-making by alerting the radiologists to patterns and trends that may require further review.

AI will be really good at deciphering imaging information and making predictions, but human radiologists are still required to make judgments.

However, at the end of the day, the technology will only go so far. In other words, AI will be really good at deciphering imaging information and making predictions, but human radiologists are still required to make judgments.

Radiologists as integrators of smart data?

The Annual Oration in Diagnostic Radiology at RSNA 2019 offered an interesting (albeit somewhat extreme) take on how informatics may impact the role of radiology in the near future. The oration, titled Next-Generation Technologies and Strategies for Precision Health, was presented by Sanjiv S. Gambhir, MD, PhD from Stanford University School of Medicine and examined how we can leverage existing and future wearables and in-home smart devices in disease prevention.

For example, Dr. Gambhir illustrated how healthcare providers are using smart watches to detect irregular heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation to prevent complications or more serious health issues. He went on to theorize how we can utilize devices like smart toilets, toothbrushes and mirrors to proactively monitor waste, saliva and appearance (e.g. skin tone and elasticity, facial indicators of stress or anxiety, etc.) to detect signs of disease early and intervene appropriately.

What does all of this have to do with radiology? Well, according to Dr. Gambhir, radiologists are ideally suited to become the integrators of all of this future smart-device data as it enters a healthcare portal.

Radiologists are more technologically inclined to piece together the diagnostic puzzle of a patient that will be generated as a result of smart technologies.

“Radiologists are more technologically inclined than other physicians, and therefore better suited, to piece together the diagnostic puzzle of a patient that will be generated as a result of smart technologies,” he says.

Enhancing radiology workflows

While we didn’t encounter any RSNA attendees looking to tackle the potential influx of smart device data, all were looking to improve their informatics capabilities in one way or another.

Some were interested in consolidating images from multiple specialties into a single archive using vendor neutral archive. Others were keen on implementing an enterprise and diagnostic viewer to extend referential viewing capabilities to clinical stakeholders throughout the enterprise while simultaneously giving radiologists a tool that enables remote diagnostic interpretation.

Others were seeking out point solutions, such as a device to capture visible light images and video from scopes and integrate them into a PACS, VNA or EMR.

Streamlining radiology workflows using information technology was also a top priority, whether that was via a combination of the solutions referenced above or a universal radiology worklist optimization and orchestration tool. Attendees were also eager to learn more about our enterprise imaging solutions that support AI and machine-learning initiatives by helping to consolidate and anonymize imaging data sets.

All in all, RSNA 2019 was a great event for Hyland Healthcare to engage with existing clients and new prospects on how they can leverage our tools to improve their departmental efficiencies and see new possibilities together.

Ken Congdon

Ken Congdon

Ken Congdon is a content marketing manager at Hyland. His mission is to develop engaging content that educates healthcare providers and payers about potential solutions to their most pressing content... read more about: Ken Congdon

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