Addressing the Limitations of Medical Imaging in the Digital Age

Addressing the Limitations of Medical Imaging in the Digital Age

Healthcare Tech Outlook | Tuesday, February 01, 2022

95 percent of healthcare executives consider information technology as a vital strategic tool for the success of their organizations.

FREMONT, CA: The healthcare business has transitioned a range of processes away from paper and film and toward computers and the cloud during the last several decades. However, leaders look for healthcare information technology to deliver even more value and efficiency. Indeed, a HIMSS Leadership Survey found that an overwhelming majority of healthcare executives perceive healthcare information technology as a "strategic vital instrument" that enables healthcare organizations to succeed, particularly in their patient care-focused activities.

When asked to rate the importance of health information technology to the performance of various areas within their company, the majority of respondents underlined IT's support for the organization's patient-centered activities. The top four categories listed—clinical integration, primary care provider efficiency, mandatory quality metric improvement, and care coordination—addressed patient care issues and were rated significant by at least two-thirds of respondents.

While healthcare organizations are discovering numerous benefits of operating in an electronic environment, they are also experiencing fresh obstacles. That is never clearer than in the field of medical imaging.

For companies, the imaging problems connected with new technology include the need to meet ever-increasing imaging utilization demands, the difficulties associated with a fragmented IT infrastructure, and the desire to continuously harness technology to improve care quality.

They must tackle the dilemma of technological innovation—the immensity of possibility coupled with growing complexity.

Pains associated with growth

Numerous healthcare institutions are banking on the adage that there is strength in numbers to better deal with the deluge of imagery.

Indeed, healthcare outperforms all other industries in mergers and acquisitions, with USD 2.64 trillion in mergers and acquisitions, compared to USD 2.57 trillion in energy and electricity, USD 2.37 trillion in financial services, and barely USD 501 billion in retail.

Additionally, 60 percent of hospitals are now integrated into a healthcare system. Additionally, radiology groups are growing in size—there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of groups with 65 or more physicians.

Consolidation efforts are aimed to assist firms in pooling technical and human resources to meet expanding demand. Consolidation's "hidden logic" is that "by growing larger, hospitals and healthcare systems will achieve scale and lower operating costs while maintaining the same level of care," according to a PwC analysis.

Unexpected consequences

The issue is that this consolidation frenzy is not resulting in the economies of scale anticipated. According to PwC, healthcare systems with several locations do not suffer from scale effects. The analysis discovered no statistically significant association between bed capacity and cost per visit at the system level across all four types of health systems studied. Even for-profit, non-teaching systems, which are normally fiscally conservative, could not demonstrate gains from consolidation.

Regrettably, although enterprises consolidate, their information systems—particularly imaging systems—frequently persist in silos. As a result, healthcare organizations face many challenges:

  • Decentralization of skills and resources
  • Inadequate standardization of processes
  • Increased costs linked with an excessive number of vendors
  • Difficult and frequently ad hoc workflows

Workflow issues are proven to be particularly vexing for radiologists. When one system is used to read chest x-rays, and another is used to read mammograms, for example, the separation makes it impossible for radiologists to complete their work, which may contribute to fatigue physically. These interrupted workflows are especially perplexing for radiologists who, by nature, like to concentrate on one task at a time and struggle with starts and pauses.

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