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Streaming technology expands reach of radiology

Streaming technology enables radiologists to interpret images from anywhere, streamlining their workflow and helping hospitals retain staff.
By admin
Oct 31, 2023, 2:17 PM

The medical landscape is under constant transformation, grappling with staffing shortages, tight budgets, and the imperative to maximize staff efficiency, all while protecting staff burnout to avoid exacerbating the problem. The challenges are manifold, with each department feeling the strain differently, and technology becoming a pivotal solution.   

One department particularly short staffed is radiology. Radiologists are relied upon across all medical fields but especially in the emergency room, where patients often need urgent imaging interpretations. The demand for imaging has only increased in the past eight years, for example, climbing by 5.5% for chest radiography, 35.5% for CT scans, and 56.3% for MRIs at level I trauma centers, according to data from the Journal of the American College of Radiology.  

While the overall demand for imaging studies is growing, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of radiologists in the upcoming years.  

It’s clear that hospitals and healthcare organizations have a challenging task in front of them: How do they maximize the efficiency of radiologists while preventing burnout? And, in this era of digital innovation, how can technology play an essential role in bridging these gaps?   

Moving beyond hospital walls

With the increasing demand for medical imaging interpretation and a limited number of qualified radiologists, hospitals have had to think outside the box. This has meant moving away from traditional hospital-centric models and looking for ways to allow radiologists to read and interpret medical images from locations away from the hospital environment. 

Many health systems have tried to tackle part of this problem by using universal viewers. These tools have been instrumental in providing referral and surgical care teams, as well as patients, access to their imaging data. They can also offer a diagnostic reading environment, bridging the gap between the hospital and image reading at remote or off-site locations. 

However, the solution requires health systems to establish full workstations at radiologists’ homes, equipped with VPN or other network accesses. But this setup is far from ideal. Routing imaging to these remote locations is time-consuming and often results in workflow issues. It’s also expensive, both in terms of initial setup and ongoing maintenance, and unsatisfying to both radiologists and IT teams alike. More so, this approach only offers access to pre-determined and managed PCs. It doesn’t cater to the rapid deployment of access to new groups, making it less adaptable to the changing dynamics of the healthcare industry. 

Streaming imaging technology: The game-changer  

Enter streaming technologies, a revolutionary approach to remote medical imaging interpretation. Streaming technologies eliminate the need to transfer image data to full-fledged workstations at radiologists’ homes or off-site locations. Radiologists can now have almost instantaneous access to medical images and their histories, leading to enhanced productivity. 

AGFA HealthCare has developed streaming clients that address the common issues associated with remote imaging reading. These tools offer a glimpse into the future – a world where radiologists have access to images and can read from any location, without any significant technological hindrances. 

Moreover, in today’s competitive job market, providing radiologists with the choice of their reading location is essential. Flexibility in their work environment, combined with the increased efficiency that streaming brings, enhances radiologists’ workflow and the delivery of patient care. It’s a win-win for both healthcare institutions and the professionals they employ. 

Addressing Security Concerns 

A pertinent concern with remote reading is security. Transferring medical images between the health system network and the off-site location could expose sensitive patient data if handled carelessly. However, streaming offers a solution to this issue as well. With streaming, the data doesn’t have to be physically moved, making it less likely for it to be stolen or exposed. 

The future of medical imaging interpretation is undoubtedly leaning towards remote and flexible environments. With innovations like streaming technologies, we are well on our way to achieving a more efficient, secure, and adaptable medical imaging ecosystem. This not only ensures that radiologists have a conducive working environment, but also supports the delivery of timely care to patients, no matter where their images are being read. 

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