Radiologists who have congregated at IRIA 2019 from across the country to discuss advancements in radiology, contemplate how growth in digital technologies can be utilised to improve efficiencies, increase better patient outcomes. By Raelene Kambli and Prathiba Raju
Technology has been the backbone for the radiology industry since a long time. But today is the age of digital technologies. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Internet of Things and more have transformed and enhanced imaging technologies such as CT, MRI, PACS etc through features such as image quality and data storage. But, what impact does this marriage have on the overall practice of radiology and how much will this union bring this profession to the epicentre of healthcare delivery?
Indeed, the answers remain in its application, the investment it will entail and its impact on healthcare costs.
Radiologists across the country are still contemplating how growth in digital technologies can be utilised to improve efficiencies, increase better patient outcomes and consolidate data which can be utilised for further research. They are yet bracing themselves to handle the overall explosion of data now available in medicine which will address some of the current challenges faced in radiology today.
Here are some views on the same.
Enriching the practice of radiology
“With advancements in computer technologies, many technologies in radiology science piggyback on these new mediums for reconstruction, storage and for doing things very rapidly. And it is this advancement which has the enhanced imaging technologies such as CT, MRI, PET-CT and Ultrasound to provide better, quicker and more accurate diagnosis. AI and machine learning is one such technology that will take radiology to the next level. This technology will do two important things- help radiologists to improve their practice by helping them reach a more conclusive diagnosis quickly at a lesser cost. Secondly, in many instances if the AI algorithm is able to differentiate between normal and abnormal diagnosis, radiologists would then spend more time focussing on the abnormal,” shares Dr Harsh Mahajan, Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging.
Similarly, Prof Dr Nanjaraj CP, Dean and Director, Mysore Medical College and Research Institute, Mysore, believes that the marriage of digital technologies and imaging technologies will bring in a sea change in the practice of radiology. He postulates that radiological technologies have evolved over the years, but the changes that AI has brought are immense. Today, identifying smaller nodules which at one point times was impossible to detect is absolutely possible and this is because of technologies backed by AI.
Dr Pradeep Parakh, Radiologist, SMS College, Jaipur also feels that AI is slowly but steadily changing the face of imaging diagnostics. It has a great potential to improve the practice and deliver better patient outcomes.
Likewise, Dr Kundur Prabhakar Reddy, President, AOCR, ascertained that digital technologies have and will in future be the backbone of all radiology practice, but he also warned on the perils that it could bring.
AI, radiology and medico-legal tangles
While most radiologists seem upbeat about the digital wave, there are some risks involved which need urgent attention.
Dr Reddy is of the opinion that technologies such as AI could lead radiologists to fall prey to legal tangles. He says, “AI has the potential to provide diagnosis which might differ from the diagnosis given by the radiologists, this could lead to a difference of opinion and cause further confusion. We, therefore, need to look at the medico-legal aspects involved in the application of AI.”
Dr Mahajan also agrees that the legal aspects on the applications of advanced technologies should be studied further. However, these aspects will certainly be resolved over time.
Costs of healthcare
Next is the challenge of the cost factors involved. The question raised by most radiologists is that how much investment will it entail and what impact will it have on the cost of diagnostics on patients?
Dr Bhardwaj, Senior Radiologist from Chandigarh raises his concerns on the costs for utilising such technologies. He insists that government needs to bring in some regulations that can give more clarity on the cost factor.
Dr Mahajan clarifies that digital technologies such as AI will bring down the cost. It will help radiologists to provide better, faster and accurate imaging results in a short span of time, allowing them to earn in volumes.
Thus the experts affirm that technology is catalysing a revolution in the radiology sector. But, moving forward, if technologies such as AI, machine learning and more need to get mainstream in radiology both government and industry will need to focus on bringing in the required regulations for quality, costs and practice.
Radiologists on the other hand will need to upgrade themselves continuous education on digital technologies and its application in future.