The top trends in teleradiology
Teleradiology is a branch of telemedicine in which telecommunications systems are used to transmit radiological images and related data from one location to another for diagnostic and consulting purposes. The demand for diagnostic and image interpretation services in radiology is growing rapidly all over the world at a very fast pace and has become an important component in the healthcare system. The global teleradiology market accounted for $2,709 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $10,621 million by 2025 with a CAGR of 18.4% from 2018 to 2025.
Teleradiology is being referred concurrently with radiology. Radiologists, nowadays, working in healthcare organizations like diagnostic centers, hospitals, private practices, etc. have a suitable internet connection and can use their platform to view images and interpretation irrespective of their physical presence. This effect of technological advancements has made it possible for radiologists to have a flexible lifestyle.
The top trends in Teleradiology:
Teleradiology has been revolutionized with the use of cloud computing concept. The cloud computing concept allows healthcare enterprises to deploy services based on the providers’ infrastructure without having to manage and maintain it. Cloud providers offer a diversified set of services, such as elastic computing, storage, databases and notification systems, based on different kinds of service.
The rapidly growing storage and the processing power needed in healthcare IT have positioned cloud technologies as a good solution to provide highly scalable infrastructures. Outsourcing PACS to a cloud-based infrastructure can have a notable impact on small centers as they may be able to reduce the costs of hardware, network, equipment, energy, and maintenance, etc. The financial advantage of using the cloud for IT outsourcing is important in many scenarios, including the healthcare area.
With the help of robust cloud architecture, healthcare organizations can now store their images on virtual data centers freeing up important server space. Moreover, the images can be accessed from different places hassle-free.
- Technology and Digitalization:
Technology advances, such as the use of mobile devices, have further extended the reach and improved the efficiency of teleradiology. A good example of teleradiology being used by neurologists is the view of head CTs on their tablet devices and smartphones in the setting of acute stroke.
One of the major advancements in radiology has been “Digitalization”. Many healthcare organizations across nations are adopting the concept of ‘going paperless’. The Picture Archive and Communication System (PACS) and Radiology Information System (RIS) are a massive step in this direction. The use of PACS has helped radiologists to store a large number of image files which can be easily retrieved at any course of time. Thus, resulting in the comfort of accessing the entire database of images of all patients across all modalities in just a click. With the digitalization of medicine, radiology data sharing is now possible with the use of Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM). Software solutions like RIS have now made it easy to keep a track record of every patient.
One of the latest trends in the healthcare industry is consumerization. Healthcare organizations are more focused on giving high importance to the end consumer. Teleradiology is playing a remarkable role by allowing easy access to expert opinions and other related case results online.
Companies are coming up with different channels to engage with patients by creating different modes of interactions like radiologist consultation online through the website, image uploads, etc. These advancements have made it easy to get second opinion effortlessly.
Even for day to day communication between the teleradiology service provider and the client, applications like WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. are used instead of calling. The use of these apps has made interactions very smooth, seamless and cost-saving compared to traditional modes of communication.
- Customized 3D Report Viewers:
The invention of 3D report viewers is one of the technological milestones in the field of radiology. Initially, 3D viewing was only possible on high-end work stations. But, today, there are many thin client solutions that are available and permit 3D post-processing and viewing of medical reports and images throughout the healthcare practice.
Today, there are many thin client solutions that are available and permit 3D post-processing and viewing of medical reports and images throughout the healthcare practice. Those 3D viewers do not require the routing of data back and forth between various servers and workstations. It enables a cost-effective solution for viewing medical images across the healthcare organization, including patients as well.
- Rise of sub-specialty services:
One of the emerging trends in teleradiology is the rise of studies being reported by sub-specialists. This is mainly preferred by clinicians for detailed investigation and better patient care. All the healthcare organizations cannot have a wide range of sub-specialists with them due to the cost involved and the shortage of radiologists in the healthcare industry. In such a scenario, teleradiology plays an important role in resolving this gap.
Now, most of the teleradiology service providers have diversified and have added sub-specialty reporting in their portfolios. This has enabled the small hospitals and diagnostic centers to utilize the service for better patient care without necessity of hiring in-house radiologists.
There are also significant dangers that accompany teleradiology services, especially subspecialty services, as it may diminish the value of the local radiologists and potentially remove most of the more interesting cases to major centers. This will act as a disincentive to general radiologists providing a service in the locality, may result in deskilling and the loss of the local radiological service and the closure of some departments.
- Adherence to Data protection laws of the land:
Data protection has become one of the basic requisites in healthcare industries. Countries have become very stringent in processing and sharing of personal details of individuals outside the country. Confidentiality of information has become a key part of maintaining the dignity of those using health services. There are many laws enacted by governments of different countries in relation to this.
Healthcare organizations are bound to comply with the Data Protection Act of the country otherwise serious implications and penalties are involved if laws related to patient privacy are breached.
- Perils of teleradiology services:
Like every good thing is accompanied by some inevitable evils, teleradiology is no exception in this. There are some alarming and concerning issues that teleradiology has bought with it. To name a few, services are miss-utilized to provide low cost services and compromising the quality of reports and attrition of in-house radiologists’ importance. Excessive reliability of technology can lead to a chaos when there is technical failure and this can impact in management of critical services to patients. These are few of very important issues that needs to be addressed on priority amongst many others.
Teleradiology is already being used around the world and will become commonplace, as information transfer networks increase in capacity and extent. There is a lot more happening in this industry and it is believed that the trends mentioned above have impacted teleradiology in one way or the other. We need to balance the benefits and handle the perils in a smarter way.
Syeda Sabera Sams
Sales and Marketing -Telemedicine
Columbia Asia Hospitals