There’s a Story Behind Every X-ray – I’ve Got Several

Rob Nelson

A Patient’s Perspective on Why X-ray Repeat/Reject Analysis Matters

It used to seem like just a cool project. Last summer, I started a new role working with our X-ray team on advanced analytics to help reduce unnecessary repeated and rejected images as part of our new X-ray Quality Application. While it was incredibly interesting, I’d never actually broken a bone—despite practicing mixed martial arts. Well, except my pinky toe earlier in the year.

Then the work got personal in a big way. Just before the launch of the new app, in mid-August, I got into a serious motorcycle wreck. I broke my right leg and right wrist. The GE Healthcare X-ray team sent me flowers and I was quickly acquainted with the inner workings of the department they supported. Thus began my “patient journey.” From the ER to post-surgery to follow up to second follow up—I had so many X-rays, I lost count. It didn’t take me long to realize that avoiding repeat images is a pretty important mission.

I’ll be honest, as beautiful as our machines are, there’s little to love about getting an X-ray. The whole process is stressful and can be uncomfortable. First, there is just getting to an appointment with a broken leg in a full cast and walker. Then there’s the waiting. And once in the exam room, the room is often kind of cold. And, of course, there is more waiting on results.

For the actual X-ray, there’s a struggle to get properly positioned. You sit or lie and wait with a heavy lead shield over parts of you. Hold your breath. Don’t breathe. The technologist goes around the corner, behind protective shielding, and you wait for a buzz—the whole time thinking about the risks of radiation exposure.

For both my leg and hand, I got to repeat the whole process as many as four times each visit.

“I hope you got what you needed. Please take only what you need—no more, no less, okay?” I’d say hopefully (maybe even demandingly).

Inevitably, I did have a few repeats here and there. Once, I almost caused one myself by offering the wrong leg for scanning. Thanks to the technologist for catching that mistake!

At one of my exams, I started chatting with the technologist about the cool analytics we were working on. She and her teammates didn’t have any way of helping them explore X-ray repeat/reject causes. As a fellow motorcycle enthusiast who had herself experienced crash-related injuries and surgical repairs in the past, she was immediately intrigued by the app. She said, “we don’t have anything fancy like that!”

And she could certainly relate to my mindset: I just wanted to know when I could get back to sparring and biking (just bicycling for now). I didn’t want more exams than necessary, but I didn’t want a problem overlooked, either. I just wanted to be healed and to get a doctor’s clearance.

There have been a few bumps along my road to recovery, but today I am back on the mat—gloves, kick-shields, bags and gear—I’m also jogging and riding a bike. I’m more aware than ever of the need for X-ray image analysis and our efforts at GE Healthcare. And, I do love our X-ray team.

The X-ray Quality Application can help to make care providers’ jobs easier and patients’ lives better. And, we’re just getting started. In the future, we may be able to use artificial intelligence to help analyze the images themselves, further advancing the valuable impact on X-ray quality.

Since my accident, I had pain in my leg after some martial arts training. So I had one more X-ray to double-check for potential issues. The radiologist diagnosed my previously injured leg as broken in a new location…but it wasn’t. Now, imagine if an AI algorithm could have compared the images before and after (which were all on file) and could have aided his diagnosis. I wish. It would have saved me a lot of stress!

What’s most important for X-ray is driving down dose, speeding up the experience, and increasing the accuracy of the results. We’ll keep working toward these goals as we develop our solutions. And we’ll all be better off – myself included.

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