Radiology Must Embrace Innovation
Monday, Nov. 30, 2015
"Star Trek" may seem an unlikely blueprint for radiology's future, but RSNA president Ronald L. Arenson, M.D., successfully blended the fictional TV program with the realities facing radiology during his President's Address, "Going Boldly into Radiology's Technological Future: Why Our Profession Must Embrace Innovation," on Sunday in the Arie Crown Theater.
"While some of you may feel like we are already living in a 'strange new world,' the point is that change is upon us," Dr. Arenson said. "Like Earth in the 23rd Century, our profession has reached a time of great challenge. It's a time that requires us to be bold explorers and to seek our own version of 'new life and new civilizations,' Dr. Arenson said, referencing the TV program's familiar opening words.
Challenges facing radiology include growing demand for personalized medicine, integrated healthcare delivery, healthcare payer expectations, massive expansion of data and the growth of telehealth, and an aging population.
"Radiology is going to be in great demand and we are going to have to be ready. It's that simple," Dr. Arenson said. "We have work to do if technology is going to meet its promise for the future – work that requires managing change as much as embracing it."
Referring back to "Star Trek," Dr. Arenson illustrated how some of the show's technological devices were precursors for such things as cellphones, Google Translate and Skype.
Regarding medicine, Dr. Arenson said what was a novelty on the program is becoming reality today. In particular, experimenters at Harvard University and Scanadu, a mobile medical device company, are pursuing a "Star Trek"-like tricorder, which could measure oxygen and detect disease. The company created the Scanadu Scout, a palm-sized scanner that detects a variety of health indices.
Similar technological advances are also coming to radiology. Some examples include a 7-nanometer transistor from IBM that is four times more powerful than previous ones, an ultrafast receive-only 2-D camera that can capture 100 billion frames per second, and new devices such as smartphone-sized imaging devices and radio frequency identification bracelets designed to eliminate the possibility of patient identification errors.
"In the face of all this, radiology must be willing to change and explore new frontiers – to find new ways of delivering care and adapting to circumstances," Dr. Arenson said.
When it comes to technology, radiology is unique from many other medical specialties in pioneering and adapting to the latest IT advancements. The development of the first modern radiology information system grew from the birth of the Radiology Information System Consortium (RISC) in 1980.
Through the initiative Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), radiology did pioneering work in helping maximize the impact of the DICOM standard. During that time, millions of patients benefitted from radiology's work in dose reduction.
The progress continues today with RSNA's development of RadLex, which uses a unified language of radiology to streamline information-sharing.
To turn its potential into reality, Dr. Arenson said radiology must demonstrate the value of the profession as catalyst, create a culture of support for research, cultivate cross-sector partnerships, and spur integration of technology infrastructure.
"Let's not forget that each of us as individuals also has the power to help advance our profession's embrace of technology," Dr. Arenson said.
He suggested individuals can do that by becoming technology adopters in their own practices and being patient-centric. By participating in RSNA's Radiology Cares, Image Share, IHE and the Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers Alliance, radiologists can help to advance the profession.
"By taking these steps, we will ensure that as radiology takes its own journey – 'to boldly go where no one has gone before' – we do so with sensible policies and a strong vision that benefits the patients we serve," Dr. Arenson said.