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The New Informatics: Productivity Meets Collaboration
But this time, analysts say, it's informatics with a difference. These IT tools could bridge the gap between radiologists and referring physicians, opening up the possibility of real consultation without disrupting workflow.
And the new developments are coming just in time, because the informatics tools that helped radiology thrive over the past several years may also be contributing to its precarious position now.
"The first phase of IT deployment in radiology has made radiologists more productive, more independent, more mobile, and it has allowed them to provide a service without the need for all the surrounded added value," said Nadim Michel Daher, principal analyst for medical imaging at Frost and Sullivan. "This next generation of its deployment has to keep in mind the role of the radiologist, because they feel the future is at stake."
One of the biggest breakthroughs in informatics this year isn't coming from the radiology side. It's coming from the client side.
"Mobile devices -- with tablets, and their battery life, resolution, internet connectivity -- mean the human-computer interface has gotten to the point where we can now bring back consultation and bring back our relationship with our referring physicians," said Paul Nagy, PhD, SIIM, director of quality at the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University.
About 70 percent of physicians use tablets in their practices, Nagy said, and that gives radiologists a tool to communicate with them in real time but in virtual space.
"Basically what we're talking about is like Skype for PACS," Nagy said, referring to an Internet phone and chat service. "You're both logged in to the same session, you're both shared into the same video chat and you're actually sharing the images, looking at the same slice and the same nodules. You're both looking at the images together and having a conversation about them. You're guiding them in the image interpretation process and helping them interpret the results."
That's a huge improvement over the reports radiologists could send out via their PACS, Nagy said.
"Before PACS was really an asynchronous technology: The radiologist reads the image and the referring physician reads the report. There's not much collaboration going on as part of that, nor is there much feedback."
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