Our iPhones can do a lot, but they still can’t diagnose patients (although Google and WebMD may have some convinced otherwise).
Medical imaging remains the most precise method of diagnosis for many illnesses, and as our country’s baby boomer population continues to age, more patients than ever need imaging.
As facilities struggle to cut costs while offering excellent care, it becomes critical that the right exam is done at the right time to avoid repeats. Easy access to prior imaging is also a necessity for many life-saving preventive exams like mammograms, lung CTs, and CT colonographies. At the same time, radiologists are feeling burned out by the exorbitant number of studies for review coming across their workstations each day in larger, more consolidated networks.
So how can we reduce radiologist burn-out and attract more medical students to the field? How do provider facilities cut costs while improving patient care and turnaround time?
These were the questions up for discussion at Think RADical in Boston. Think RADical is a series of advisory events hosted by Ambra Health that aim to join thought leaders from across the medical imaging and informatics world to discuss how innovation can shape the future of medical imaging.
Cloudy, with a Chance of Improved Patient Care
The discussion began with Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, highlighting how cloud technology like Ambra Health has given providers tools to extend their imaging infrastructure, as well as providing developers with the tools to incorporate imaging into various digital health applications, including new types and methods of image analysis. The healthcare world and digital health applications are merging together for the benefit of both patients and facilities alike. The National Kidney Registry, for example, is using Ambra to speed up delivery of donor imaging before a match can take place. Previously, it could take up to 10 days for images to arrive on CDs. Now, with Ambra Health, the time has been reduced to minutes. “This isn’t just saving time, it’s saving lives,” said Joe Sinacore, Director of Education and Development at the National Kidney Registry.
My Mama Told Me, You Better Shop Around
Panner then led a discussion with Dr. Steve Strongwater, CEO of Atrius Health. Atrius runs as an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and is therefore laser focused on lowering the total medical expenses across its network. A few strategies around this include enhancing interoperability within the system, cutting down on ER usage, and offering patients an opportunity for care at home rather than a stay in a high-cost hospital setting.
Dr. Strongwater also highlighted the “draw of the brand.” Many patients are drawn towards higher-cost centers of excellence. However, medical care has become highly standardized, even for many complex conditions like cancer, and patients can receive excellent care at community hospitals, cutting costs significantly. In fact, Dr. Strongwater argued that most patients (excluding those with rare conditions) should be more concerned with where they will receive the most integrated and holistic care, rather than with the name of the facility.
The Future Face of Radiology: Man, Woman or Machine?
Following this cost-saving discussion, Dr. Christoph Wald of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Tyler Martin, MHA, R.T. (R) (CT), Executive Director of Ambulatory Operations at New England Baptist Health, and Dr. Phil Templeton, FACR, Founder of Reads for Rads, began an imaging specific panel discussion led by Ambra Health CMO, Mini Peiris.
Across the board, all the panelists agreed that radiologists should embrace AI rather than fear it. AI can be used to reduce burn-out rates and therefore offer a better work life balance to medical students. Dr. Wald also noted that, “With AI, we can build a treatment plan specific to a patient. This is more important than a binary diagnosis.” Tyler Martin also agreed that an AI powered workflow can make improvements in patient care. He added that consolidating all imaging data (DICOM and non-DICOM alike) is another strategy to improve patient care and cut costs for a facility. The consolidation of imaging acts as a secure back-up and provides a universal point of access for patient imaging and prior studies.
Dr. Phil Templeton then shared his perspectives from both a career in medicine and entrepreneurial ventures. Like Dr. Wald, Dr. Templeton has seen significant burn-out in the radiology field, leading to difficulties recruiting medical students and particularly women into the field. In the past, radiology was not considered a women’s speciality and even today, the number of female radiologists is significantly lower than their male counterparts, despite fairly equivalent numbers entering medical school.
Interested in fostering diversity in radiology?
RADxx, inspired by Think RADical, is an initiative focused on encouraging mentorship and leadership for women in radiology and imaging informatics. You are invited to join us for a tweetchat on Thurs, May 11 at 4pm ET / 1pm PT as we brainstorm ways to change the future face of radiology. Track the twitter hashtag #RADxx to join the discussion!