Imaging in the US vs. Europe: The Same, but Different

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Update from the 2015 European Congress of Radiology

Last week I had the chance to attend the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna, Austria which is hosted by the European Society of Radiology. Similar to the annual meeting hosted by the Radiological Society of North America in the United States, this massive radiology conference is replete with radiologist, presentations, scientific papers and, of course, many, many vendors.

As any trip through Europe will remind you, the US and the rest of the world are indeed very different places. A walk through the ECR technical exhibitions alone quickly illustrated this point. The number of languages being spoken throughout the halls was staggering. And I was surprised to see that some vendors were pouring wine for clients in their booths – at noon! J Neither of these things would have been the same in the United States.

But as I talked to my European colleagues and GE’s Europe-based clients over the week, I realized that there are also many similarities. It reminded me of a phrase a Vietnamese tour guide kept using on a recent personal vacation. As he tried to explain cultural differences between the US and Vietnam, he kept saying, “It’s the same. The same, but different.”

How very true. Imaging in Europe is the same, but also very different. Let me explain.

Different Challenges Across Regions

As even the most uninformed person can tell you, the European and US healthcare systems are radically different. It’s also true that the drivers of change in each region are diverse. For example, according to the European Commission Green Paper on the European Workforce for Health, clinician shortages represent a challenge to the profession. There are far fewer radiologists than needed in most of Europe, especially in rural areas and it’s expected to get worse.

This is driving the need for European healthcare organizations to rethink how they deliver patient care. Having a radiologist drive from location to location is not a good use of their time or expertise and is expensive. Instead, European healthcare providers are looking for ways to allow radiologists to read (or report as they say) remotely, so that one radiologist can cover the needs of multiple locations. The US is not facing this shortage issue – at least not yet.

Similar Requirements for Enterprise Imaging

Regardless of these regional differences, some things are very much the same.

In both Europe and the US, the rapidly changing environment means that healthcare organizations must rethink how they approach imaging. In both areas of the world, healthcare organizations need to improve clinical productivity, optimize quality and throughput, and improve patient satisfaction.

So how can these very different markets, which are being impacted by very unique environmental pressures, accomplish these similar goals? Again, I think both regions really have to tackle this in a very similar way. They must both…

  1. Look at tools that will increase their diagnostic speed & confidence. Simply put, they need to do more with less.
  2. Take a holistic view of care-pathways. They need to make sure that imaging is coordinated across the continuum of care.
  3. Develop a truly integrated approach. They have to think about the storage and management of images across departments, between hospitals and even out to referring physicians.

It’s often said, we can learn the most from our differences. This is true. But I’m even more intrigued to see how European and US healthcare providers can learn from each other as they tackle the challenge and the promise of enterprise imaging.


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