Stacey A. Funt, MD, a New York radiologist recently created the app My Imaging Records to help people to keep track of their personal medical of dental images. Funt is fellowship trained in body imaging, but has spent the last several years focusing her work on radiation safety and appropriate utilization of imaging.
Funt recently spoke with Diagnostic Imaging about her new app, how she came up with the idea, and how she hopes the app will help patients.
What gave you the idea for My Imaging Records? Why is an app like this important?
There is a very big focus on radiation reduction right now, with a main focus on health implications. Radiologists know ionizing radiation can cause cancer, so we want to get diagnostic quality imaging using as little radiation as we can. It is important not to over radiate our patients.
With the changing face of healthcare, we also need to minimize waste as much as possible and make sure we are utilizing imaging in the best possible way. As a radiologist, I see a lot of waste that happens. I have created a physician outreach educational program where I talk to clinicians about how to minimize the [radiation] exposure to patients and how to order appropriate tests. As I worked with physicians, I realized that patients need to be a part of the formula as well.
People used to give out wallet-sized cards for patients to write down exams they have had in the past. Everybody carries a cell phone now so I thought if people were aware of when they had their last mammogram or their last CAT scan and they could share that with doctors … we could decrease a lot of unnecessary imaging that happens.
What is the app designed to do?
The app is designed to do a few things. The app helps to keep track of what exams you have had and when. For example, when you had your last CAT scan, your last mammogram, etc. When you enter in that information, there is also an area to write personal notes. In those notes you can write questions that you have for your doctor, notes about the examination, follow-up you are supposed to have, or any instructions the doctor gave you.
It can also help a patient reinforce their medical care and help with communication between patients and physicians. When a patient goes to get another [imaging] exam, they can look at when they had their last one to make sure that the appropriate amount of timed has gone by between exams. Another example of its use is sometimes [clinicians] will see something on a CAT scan, a lesion on the liver, let’s say, and the patient isn’t aware of a prior CAT scan of the abdomen. However, maybe they have had a CAT scan of the chest and that includes the top of the liver. Maybe the answer is on that old study and the clinician doesn’t need to do a new study. Having records of prior examinations you have had may prevent additional studies from happening.
Finally, there is part of the app where you can record your radiation dose for patients who do want to keep track of the radiation exposure. Radiation dose is a controversial and tricky topic. I did not have the app include a total dose because I did not want to make radiation dose the central focus of the app. I don’t want someone to avoid a necessary exam because they are afraid of a potential risk of cancer.
The app also features an education component. What is included in the educational materials?
The educational component has a slew of suggestions that patients can do to minimize their exposure. One of the recommended items is to ask questions to your doctor. For example, ask “How will results of this test affect how you will treat me?” If test isn’t going to make a difference, why do it? Ask, “Is there an alternative exam without ionizing radiation that would give me the same information?” Often the answer is no, but sometimes an ultrasound or MRI will give you the same answer.
I tell people to ask if an imaging facility is an accredited facility, or to find out what they do to minimize radiation exposure. Do they use updated equipment? I instruct patients to follow directions given by the technician so that an examination does not have to be repeated, exposing them to more radiation.
Finally, I tell them not to pressure doctors to order and exam, but to leave it up to the expertise of their physician.
Who is the target audience for this app?
I have two target audiences. The first is any health conscience parent who is conscious about what their children are being exposed to. The media has had so much [to say] lately on this topic. There was just another research article about the rising incidence of cancer in children who are more susceptible to radiation exposure than adults. That is why I made it with multiple profiles so that parents can keep track for their children.
The second target audience is anybody who has a lot of imaging, particularly cancer patients, patients with renal stones, etc. When you have one CT scan in 10 years you are not as concerned about the radiation does as if you are having 10, 15 or even 20 scans.