Evolutions in medical imaging and healthcare

Consumerization, new technologies, budget pressures and Covid re-shaping healthcare ecosystems

We’ve seen a lot of changes in the last couple of years, both on the technology side with the expansion into the cloud, and on the social side with the reverberations resulting from the pandemic. What does it mean for medical imaging and the world of healthcare?

Here we take a look at four key developments that are re-shaping medical imaging and healthcare:

  1. Patient Consumerism (they have the data, but they want interpretation)
  2. Healthcare systems are becoming smarter (smart care – e.g. through AI or smart sensors)
  3. Care is becoming more available and closer to the patient (care anywhere – think wearables, apps, and web-based tools)
  4. Health data is increasingly being analyzed and exchanged (data driven healthcare – exchange platforms, big data, etc.).

Let’s take a look at each of these developments in turn.

Patients Consumerism

Digitalization has made it much easier for people to access their own medical data. With wearables and other apps adding more health data to be considered people are increasingly acting as their own care managers. Whether it’s compiling data from a fitness app, reading a copy of their blood work, or performing at-home tests. They’re looking to their healthcare professionals to help them interpret the data, provide guidance on diagnoses and treatment, and help them better manage their health.

At the same time, there’s been a decrease in in-person visits to a GP’s office that was initially driven by Covid, but now patients are also looking at alternative options (non-traditional) for healthcare or direct access to specialists to avoid long wait times and the inconvenience of having to travel to a GP’s office. People will continue to want both virtual and in-person sessions as we move out of the pandemic.

The final element and one that began before the pandemic is the volume of information available online. Patients are better informed (and sometimes misinformed) about their conditions (and any vagaries in their local healthcare systems), well ahead of any interactions with their physicians. Just as people research the car, phone, or next major purchase they are applying the same approach to their health.

Healthcare systems are becoming smarter

Hospitals are facing an increasing demand for care, data, and the ability to easily collaborate. There's a much greater need for secure, scalable, flexible solutions that allow them to work more efficiently together, and to manage and process the increasing growth in data.

Medical imaging and more specifically our area of focus, radiology, is constantly changing due to more advanced imaging techniques, equipment, and ICT solutions that are more efficient. It’s also becoming smarter: viewing images and making a diagnosis are becoming increasingly qualitative and efficient. The radiologist is helped in this process by systems that (1) display the right information faster and better (e.g. hanging protocols, consolidation of patient data, etc.); and (2) help with the diagnosis (3D processing and AI). The radiologists themselves are subspecializing more and more, a single radiologist can no longer do 'everything'. Partnerships are getting bigger or need to be collaborated.

In terms of computerization, the focus for hospitals in Europe is still on the implementation of electronic patient records (EHR), exchange / collaboration platforms (eHealth) and managing the data that is increasing every year (VNA, PACS, etc.) Hospitals are trying to maximize their service with better care offers and systems, in order to attract more patients.

We are also seeing a rise in specialized private care (chains) that focus on specific services or care. Larger players are looking to increase scale and expand their care offerings. They are often geographically dispersed and need flexible, scalable and specific platforms, such as for lab or radiology.

Care is becoming more available and closer to the patient

This has several facets. Regular examinations must be performed as close to the patient as possible, specialized examinations more and more centrally. Radiologists have to make a diagnosis remotely and no longer have to be at the location where the examination is being performed (often only for ultrasound). The demand for home working is growing, and the patient does not always go to the same institution for an examination, while the data must be available everywhere in his or her further care path. The radiologist also has a need for cross-hospital comparative examinations.

Health data is increasingly being analyzed and exchanged

The new modalities provide more and better data (especially but not only images) that needs to be processed, stored, analyzed and reviewed. Most of a hospital's data is images and in every region there is a retention requirement of many years. Radiologists also need to have increasingly intelligent systems to assess the large amounts of data.

The value of ‘pure’ web-based technology for radiology

Web-based technology in general has many advantages that apply to medical imaging:

  • Radiologists (users) are no longer tied to a particular workstation. More and more examinations are reported remotely (at home or in another institution).
  • The PACS systems are evolving and often need to be upgraded to continue to meet requirements / expectations. Due to web technology, there is no need to upgrade the clients, only the central environment needs to be upgraded.
  • Each platform is supported. A user (radiologist/physician/patient) can easily access the information on any device with the appropriate permissions.
  • For any kind of software that is not tied to a particular workstation or is hyper-specialized (and often requires local resources from the workstation itself), web technology has already demonstrated its value. For PACS, RIS, EHR, and eHealth platforms, pure web technology (HTML – only need a browser on any device) has proven its usefulness and power.

Covid as a driver of change

 And lastly, the pandemic has had significant implications for medical imaging and healthcare. A key development is the significantly increased need for remote image reading. In addition, because of Covid-19, budgets are under even more pressure due to the decrease in the number of patients, meaning hospitals are also looking for the most cost-effective solutions. On top of that, there is increased demand for networking and collaboration between hospitals – which is also a driver for using web-based cloud solutions like PACSonWEB as a PACS. 

If you’d like to learn more about PACSonWEB solution, please contact us at info@dobcomed.com

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