Making sense with technology

July 21, 2003

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comTechnophiles beware. Technology is only as good as its application. This point was driven home by disparate incidents at each of the

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

Technophiles beware. Technology is only as good as its application. This point was driven home by disparate incidents at each of the meetings I've attended over the last few weeks. In a conversation during the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology convention in Boston, a question arose about when tomorrow's breakfast meeting would begin. One person consulted his Palm Pilot. Another pulled out a DayTimer. The race was won by technology whose roots extend back 6000 years to ancient Egypt.

The overwhelming potential of modern technology was seen, however, at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting in Toronto. An executive, responding to my questions about how to approach the market for MR coils, tapped his PDA a couple of times and pulled up a database of all the MR sites in the U.S. accredited by the American College of Radiology.

In between, including a stint at the Society of Nuclear Medicine conference in New Orleans, I've seen several would-be applications of wireless technology: a tablet PC that might undock for portable use during grand rounds, providing access to patient data and images, and a wall-hung hardwired review station accessible by handheld PDAs.

The development of these products is coming from the realization that medical practitioners have not taken advantage of consumer-based technology as well or as rapidly as other professionals. But with this realization should come an appreciation that, by not being the first to adopt these technologies, radiology can avoid the missteps of those who have come before.

The consumer-based technologies now being considered for use in radiology were not designed for these purposes. PDAs, for example, were intended initially as relatively simple organizers, electronic to-do lists, address books, and calendars. The advance of microprocessors, however, has transformed them into mobile computing platforms, and now they are being pushed into applications to which they may not be suited.

Radiology vendors have been careful to note that the release of commercial products based on wireless technologies will depend on extensive testing. The lure of these devices, however, is strong-not only for OEMs to develop new products but for their customers to use them, perhaps even when simpler methods would be more effective. For examples of how this can happen, you might have to look no further than your next breakfast appointment.