Advanced Visualization – Value or Burden?

Laurent Stefani

Bringing advanced visualization to radiology could be a very disruptive experience. On one hand, you have the flat 2D images that are used for review and diagnosis. On the other hand, you feel bringing 3D processing algorithms to your radiology department could help enhance diagnosis and foster referral relationships, and yet you still face some internal resistance on whether advanced visualization helps increase productivity and is an asset that enhances your departmental value.

Over the past 10 years, I have seen many advanced visualization experts that were able to fine-tune their 3D protocols to reach new levels of productivity for their departments, while delivering the most that these 3D tools had to offer to attract referrals. They embraced advanced visualization and turned it into a strength for their department. Conversely, there are many workstations that end up being used once or twice a week for highly specialized and sub-optimal workflow. Both types of customers purchased the same capabilities, and while some benefitted from time optimizations, others saw the systems as an (un)necessary burden.  Among a population of advanced visualization users, one out of two complained about speed as their primary pain point, while ease of use comes second with 17% of respondents[1]. Clearly, the perception of speed and ease of use needs to change to get advanced visualization in mainstream.


When I started developing algorithms on Advantage WorkstationTM (AW), we were using 4-slice CT scanner images. This was only thirteen years ago, and yet the software could automatically locate and track coronary arteries, reformat the heart and extract its cavities. As the scanning technology evolved, the improvements in image quality enhanced the algorithms’ reliability. And as the processing power of workstations evolved, these algorithms became faster and preprocessing shrunk waiting times. The algorithm work is done in the background while you are doing other tasks – there is no more processing waiting time, the 3D exam is ready to read when you want. In practice, your stack of 3000 vascular images is instantly displayed as Maximum Intensity Projection (MIP) without bone hiding the structures of interest.  Same thing with your large cardiac datasets where the first image you see is your coronary tree labeled automatically.

Ease of Use

There are two main concerns that impact ease of use perception. On one side, the user interface tries to accommodate so many use cases that the buttons and options end up being overwhelming.  This is sometimes the result of bringing more functionality over time to a legacy user interface. . On the other side, 3D solutions can be a disparate combination of 3D vendors with various releases, user interfaces and control behaviors. In both cases, the intentions are good, but the need for simplicity is compromised.

There is a need for standardization of tools and behaviors, while providing all the tools from a single desktop. In that sense, new systems that embed 3D advanced visualization within their PACS environment are leading the way. You get the best of both worlds from a single desktop with a unique user interface experience, across the enterprise. No need to push and retrieve images from systems to systems. There is no more need to spend time moving from chair to chair. Everything is now accessible at the same time from one desktop. This goes beyond simple ease of use by making it a natural part of your workflow.

Addressing both of these challenges is an exciting journey. At GE Healthcare, our Enterprise Imaging solutions help enhance diagnostic confidence – and advanced visualization is a powerful tool in our portfolio to help you enhance speed and usability.  I invite you to talk with your GE Healthcare representative to learn more about the advancements of our workstation, server, and CentricityTM PACS platform.  All are powered by the same AW 3D engine. What is exciting is that you will discover that a lot has been done to improve speed and usability.

So, what’s next? Our customers continue to give us great feedback on how to make 3D imaging even more integral to their workflows.  We take this feedback seriously and invest in our solutions to reflect this feedback.   We always welcome good insights, user feedback and ideas.

[1] Customer Perceptions and Reactions Research – Advanced Visualization, Millennium Research Group, December 2013.


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