E-learning , new opportunities, and the future of publishers’s row

November 30, 2006

If I were offered the opportunity to rename the educational exhibit hall, I would call it the Lakeside Incubator. Its shiny new name, Lakeside Learning Center, is appropriate, but really, the entirety of McCormick Place becomes a learning center when it is occupied by the RSNA’s attendees and vendor community.

If I were offered the opportunity to rename the educational exhibit hall, I would call it the Lakeside Incubator. Its shiny new name, Lakeside Learning Center, is appropriate, but really, the entirety of McCormick Place becomes a learning center when it is occupied by the RSNA's attendees and vendor community.

The educational halls of Lakeside are an incubator of new ideas that emerge as new technologies, new clinical protocols, and new procedures for innovative radiologists. Commercial products emerge from infoRAD, now the iformatics subspecialty. Remember seeing the products of Mitra or ICON and, if my memory is not deceiving me, Talk Technology, on a 10-foot tabletop along with their founders?

The profession of radiology is all about images. The proliferation of e-learning software and accessible image databases displayed on PDAs and iPod-like devices shall truly affect the way residents become educated and radiologists improve their diagnostic skills. There was an impressive array of these on display - too many to acknowledge individually.

The understated real estate occupied by the Royal College of Radiologists Integrated Training Initiative (R-ITI) deserved being surrounded by strobe lights and the occasional fanfare of bugles and trumpets. Just as the impending shortage of radiologists in the U.S. Army and Air Force kickstarted the commercial PACS initiative, the shortage of radiologists in the U.K. and the need to expand the scarce resources of academic specialty training funded the development of the British R-ITI. This initiative may have an equally huge impact of global scope on the radiology profession.

Unlike the increasing and impressive number of Internet-accessible and PDA-displayable teaching and encyclopedic image databases, the curriculum of the nearly 1000 R-ITI tutorials is designed specifically to provide the first three years of core training in a five-year program.

Dr. Paul Dubbins, one of the four developers and a former dean of the Royal College of Radiologists, explained that R-ITI sets a precedent for training physicians in any type of medical specialty. The sessions are designed to be interactive, providing "a high-quality, user-friendly simulation of radiology reporting in a controlled PACS-like working environment."

The presenters explained that the 325 to 650 hours of e-learning modules are complemented by vascular simulators, skills labs, PACS, and videoconferencing facilities. Clinical placement is focused on the development of complex clinical skills, to better utilize the increasingly scarce time of academic professors.

Wow!

I haven't been so knocked off my professional feet since I learned earlier this year of Canada Health Infoway's Diagnostic Imaging Toolkit, a compendium of information and practical advice about planning for PACS, implementing an installation, and managing it. This database designed to make PACS consultants like myself obsolete is free, by the way, to government-managed hospitals throughout the world. But I digress.

So how will the contents of publisher's row change five to 10 years hence? Undoubtedly, the offerings will be more electronic. But I personally hope that books will survive and be there too. The ability to browse through a book or a printed journal or the RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting Program, tome that it is, facilitates the rapid comprehension of scope of what can be learned far better than electronic searches.

I value the fact that the RSNA's program and exhibitor information has gone electronic. But the printed annual meeting program becomes a well- and oft-thumbed addition to my professional research library. Past issues record the historic information that disappears at some point on the RSNA Web site.

Books should not go away. And neither ever should the annual meeting program. I sorely miss the RSNA Buyers Guide because it provided the best reference to the vendor industry. Although my opinion differs from what the RSNA states is the majority opinion of the professional attendees and vendors, I feel strongly that the vendors and healthcare institutions who buy from them were shortchanged when this publication ceased with RSNA 2004. There is nothing more efficient than picking up a book and perusing the offerings of the world of radiology equipment in 100 or so bound pages.

RSNA, please restore the printed Buyers Guide in 2007. Like the annual meeting program, its value extends far beyond the six days of this extraordinary professional event.