Radiology needs collaborative care networks

Jan Beger

Located at the heart of the diagnostic process, radiology imaging is now a service under pressure.

Health systems face a growing shortage of radiologists, while the demand for diagnostic imaging services is growing.

Research from the U.K. Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) shows the nation has fewer radiologists per capita than other countries in Europe, around 48 trained radiologists per million population. This compared to 78 in Germany, 107 in Sweden and 113 in France. During the past five years, the year-on-year average increase in activity in England has been 10.3% for CT and 12% for MRI [1]. The demand for U.K. radiology services could indeed continue if the 10% year-on-year annual increase in MRI and CT scan numbers of the past decade continues.

Bernard Algayres, GE Healthcare IT General Manager for Radiology and Enterprise Imaging in Europe and Emerging Markets says: “In rural areas the situation is even more dramatic – some rural regions of France count 20 radiologists per million population compared to 140 per million in urban areas. This situation creates an issue of patient care equality for public health systems as patients are entitled to the same quality of care independent to where they live.”

Furthermore, patient management is increasingly reliant on imaging because 1 in 6 of the population now has multiple chronic medical illnesses [2]. This result in a longer wait for patient diagnosis and related care quality must accommodate the delays.

To overcome the challenges faced by radiologists there is a growing need for tools to optimize and streamline their workflows. One approach is to give the radiologist access to integrated, consolidated patient information, incorporating a patient’s historical data and exams across geographic regions or affiliated specialty care facilities.

Data Sharing Across Affiliated Hospitals

As hospitals are becoming increasingly specialized, patients often seek care at different facilities during their treatment. Today, affiliated hospitals either work under one governance and a shared PACS/RIS/VNA environment or – and this is seen more and more – they are affiliated enterprises with independent management, separate PACS/RIS/VNA and agreements for shared services. This may result in a patient’s imaging data being stored in different archives, most probably with different patient identifiers.

Ideally, a radiology reporting solution could provide radiologists not only access to the patient’s historical imaging data for comparisons across affiliated hospitals, but also with workload sharing enabled across those hospitals. This requires a global worklist, spanning the hospitals of a region that allows reporting directly into the source RIS/PACS, regardless of the radiologist location. With this approach, the radiologist can also access an individual voice recognition profile from any location.

The Lower Austrian Hospital Holding (Niederösterreichische Landeskliniken-Holding) has recently implemented such a solution [3].

Reducing CD Exchange

Local access to remote data can potentially reduce CD exchange and the associated work to create them. When a patient arrives with a CD, the physician needs about 4 minutes per disk to open and read it. A staggering 22% of CD disks cannot be opened! Lack of access to patient imaging history is the number one cause of unnecessarily duplicating an exam [4].

Patients who switch hospitals are more likely to undergo higher duplicate tests than patients who do not. This may be directly driven by the fact that hospitals do not always share medical information [5].

But fast network access to this same information gives providers a better, more complete picture of a patient’s health status and the patient benefits from potentially lower radiation exposure and reduced time to diagnosis [6].

Overall, radiologists need to have relevant patient data at their fingertips – this allows them to keep pace with the explosive growth in the number and complexity of radiology studies. Increasingly, healthcare organizations can now access critical tools needed to report and review imaging studies across affiliated care providers and access a complete patient history. This enables collaborative care networks with the potential for enhanced clinical outcomes and productivity.

Until next time,

Jan Beger



[1] Radiology in the UK: the case for a new service model – Sep 2014 – – The Royal College of Radiologists

[2] U.K. steps up its bid to entice overseas radiologists – Mar 2015 – – Frances Rylands-Monk

[3] “Patient benefits are enormous” – Mar 2015 – – HIMSS Europe GmbH

[4] Outside Imaging in Emergency Department Transfer Patients: CD Import Reduces Rates of Subsequent Imaging Utilization – Aug 2011 – – Aaron Sodickson, MD, PhD, , Jonathan Opraseuth, MD, and , Stephen Ledbetter, MD, MPH

[5] Hospital Switching and Duplicate Tests: Can Health Information Exchange Reduce Redundant Testing – Oct 2013 – – Sezgin Ayabakan, Indranil Bardhan, Kirk Kirksey and Zhiqiang Zheng

[6] Health Information Exchange and the Frequency of Repeat Medical Imaging – Jan 2015 – – Joshua R. Vest, PhD, MPH; Rainu Kaushal, MD, MPH; Michael D. Silver, MS; Keith Hentel, MD, MS; and Lisa M. Kern, MD

One thought on “Radiology needs collaborative care networks

  1. It is sad that we have to still work with CDs in radiology and imaging even today, though the CD technology is almost dead. One Terabyte of cloud data storage costs less than $10 a month today. Storage cost is shrinking fast. Centralized storage and access solutions are the way to go. Privacy and security concerns are simply overblown in modern health care.

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