In 2015, there were three times as many smartphones sold than there were babies born every day. With a statistic like that, it’s no wonder that mobile technology is redefining all sectors of 21st century society, including healthcare. Today, mobile access to patient information, diagnostic tools and provider-to-provider communication is transforming care delivery at hospitals.
For many years now, radiologists have practiced their speciality on workstations in reading rooms, sending reports to referring physicians via email or other hospital communications systems. Unlike the days of film and light boxes, when radiologists and referring physicians would discuss patient care while viewing images, today’s radiology workflow rarely includes face-to-face meetings with other providers and almost never involves interactions with patients. This workflow, however, is increasingly under pressure to change. New research shows that in-person communications between radiologists and referring physicians improves patient care.
I’ve worked in medical imaging for over 25 years and in that time I’ve seen the industry take amazing strides forward on the road to better patient care. When I compare today’s technology stack, the clinical breakthroughs, image quality and support for interoperability to where they were when I first began my career, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come. Industry players have matured from a proprietary, don’t share anything approach, to embracing standards and interoperability focused on improving patient care and cutting health care spending.
Clinicians from Cleveland Clinic and UC San Francisco Discuss Using Enterprise Viewer at Annual Gathering
The impact of cross-platform and mobile access to patient images is changing the workflow of radiologists, including their professional conferences and continuing medical education (CME). At the Society of Abdominal Radiology (SAR) 2016 annual meeting, BYOD support for accessing patient images played a significant role in the individual experience of participants. The conference’s “Small Bowel Imaging Hands-On Workshop” and Case of the Day program allowed attendees to experience how enterprise image access from laptops, smartphones and tablets will transform both their training and their day-to-day workflow.
When providers and healthcare institutions look at adopting new technology into clinical practice, their first consideration is the impact on patient care. To find information and evidence that a new technology is safe and effective for patient care, providers turn to peer-reviewed, published research. These reports and studies of new technology provide supporting data and evidence that a new technology will improve patient care.
This year’s HIMSS was another massive event, leaving no doubt about the critical role that health IT continues to have in all aspects of healthcare. The 2016 show had 42,000 attendees and 1200 exhibitors; it was virtually almost impossible to get around the entire exhibit floor, not to mention the conference panels and education sessions. Rising above the noise were strong themes of interoperability and the increasing presence of the cloud, both of which shifted from topics of discussion to product demonstrations and implementation showcases.
Mobile image-viewers have the power to increase provider access to images both internally and remotely, which can lead to faster interpretation/consultations and improved patient outcomes. Selecting an enterprise image-viewer, however, is a complicated process for clinical environments. In choosing the right clinical image-viewer, a multitude of factors must be considered including integration with existing picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and other radiology information management systems, security, standards support, performance and more.
Advances in imaging technology and increasingly refined image quality is a double-edged sword for providers. While high-quality imaging systems offer a wealth of information for diagnosing and patient care, they also uncover incidental findings unrelated to the primary reason for the patient’s scan. Addressing and managing incidental findings, which occur in more than a third of CT scans make them hardly incidental, which is a matter of consistent concern for providers. 
True Interoperability Must Be Designed
Every day, hospitals and health systems across the country struggle with exchanging patient data between electronic health records, PACS and other health information systems. In a recent survey, for example, accountable care organizations (ACOs) cited lack of interoperability as their number one challenge to achieving improved, patient-centered care. (1) To solve this problem, legislators, industry associations, public-private partnerships and more are calling for industry standards, frameworks and legislation that support simple and safe patient data exchange. On January 26th, the FDA joined this industry-wide chorus with the release of a draft guidance titled “Design Considerations and Pre-Market Submission: Recommendations for Interoperable Medical Devices.”
For years, telemedicine has been regarded as a care delivery model for the future with extensive barriers to overcome. While many of these barriers -- most importantly policy and reimbursement -- persist, research and provider experience has proven that telehealth delivers better patient care, more effectively and less expensively. Today, while politicians debate expanding Medicare’s coverage of telehealth, providers focused on improving patient care are implementing telehealth delivery models.