Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Radiology in 2013: The Year of Imaging Software

Published on the Jan. 3, 2013 Diagnostic Imaging website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

For radiologists and radiology vendors, the past 12 months have centered on health care reform – would the U.S. Supreme Court uphold the law, and if it did, what would it all mean? With the court’s decision, at least part of that question has been answered. Now, the industry has turned its focus to what can be done in the next year to make practice more efficient and improve how its providers interact with other specialties.

One of the biggest strategies for accomplishing this goal will be the implementation and use of new software offerings, experts say. The increasing use of more complex information in radiology practice has necessitated intelligent systems to more effectively capture and analyze data. Whether the new products impact work flow or patient care, new software developments will play an integral role in how you obtain, analyze, and share images in the future.

According to Eliot Siegel, MD, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine professor at the University of Maryland, the bulk of new software capabilities will target enhanced communication, taking how providers share information to the next level.

“So much effort has been put in during the last 20 years to actually get us to the point of being digital and having images available anytime, anywhere and being more efficient in image interpretation,” said Siegel, also the associate vice chairman of informatics. “But relatively little has been done about communicating radiology findings and information that’s important about the patient and making sure we receive return communication that our recommendations have been acted on.”

Within the next year, he predicted, radiology software will meet provider needs by not only recording when studies are completed, reported, and shared with referring physicians, but also by providing feedback on whether referring physicians acted on any radiology recommendations.

Main Provider Desires

A common provider complaint is the difficulty frequently associated with transferring images from one facility to another. In many instances, CDs are lost or referring physicians can’t download the images. Sharing studies between health care systems is also a particular challenge, Siegel said.

“It would be good to see hospitals and clinics having more universal use of images,” he said. “We should be able to transfer images directly and digitally, like sending an email. Only it would be in a safe, secure way from one facility to another.”

The Image Share Network, launched by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), is already moving the industry in this direction. Tested at five pilot sites nationwide, this initiative gives patients access to their diagnostic images via a patient health account, enabling them to transfer images to their physician much like they would in their email accounts.

Siegel also predicted the rise of software that can produce better analytics for radiology, as well as enhance natural language processing for radiology reports. Ultimately, he said, an effective system would summarize pertinent information and allow providers to either agree or disagree with the computer’s interpretation of the data. Such a system would offer improved text and structure capabilities.

What’s Coming in Communications Software

One of the most active areas in communications software development is work around speech recognition and natural language processing. Several companies are working to make these tools smarter, Siegel said.

For example, M*Modal and Nuance are developing software that will be able to understand and discern meaning from, and potentially act upon, information included in reports. Montage is also creating software that can mine current and previous radiology reports for specific words, such as pneumothorax, and correlate them with pathology reports.

“I’m really excited about this next generation of intelligent systems that generates reports and makes sure they’ve been read and acknowledged,” he said. “Computers can be useful tools to understand and extract information from the report, act on it, and allow for follow-ups.”

Additionally, many vendors are tackling improved image sharing software, using RSNA’s Image Share as a model. The most important advancement here is that these products will likely be standards-based rather than proprietary. Having a universal solution will allow health care facilities of all types — both in the same and different systems — to share all types of diagnostic imaging data associated with individual places.

Although the solution isn’t yet standards-based, information technology software developer mPlexus introduced its latest product — DICOM RadiX — at this year’s RSNA annual meeting. This automated software shares images and retrieves them from imaging archives instantly. When integrated with other mPlexus products, RadiX can transfer images between facilities, even those in separate institutions.

To read the remainder of the article in its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/informatics-pacs/content/article/113619/2121622

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February 26, 2013 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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