SCAR name change illustrates ongoing evolution in imaging

June 3, 2006

Nearly one-third of the audience in a session at the recent Society for Computer Applications in Radiology meeting noted that it was their first time attending the event. As it turns out, it was also their last. SCAR has adopted a new persona and name. From here on out, it will be known as the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.

Nearly one-third of the audience in a session at the recent Society for Computer Applications in Radiology meeting noted that it was their first time attending the event. As it turns out, it was also their last. SCAR has adopted a new persona and name. From here on out, it will be known as the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.

Change happens, and the SCAR leadership realized the need to reposition the organi-zation. As much as some of us will miss the old easy-to-pronounce acronym, SCAR got it right. Now is the time to recognize and respond to some of the shifts transforming the digital management of medical images.

Foremost among those changes is an enterprise focus on imaging. Old models of image management were based on film practices. They kept radiologists in control of PACS and how images were distributed. That model hasn't been eliminated. High-end imaging and its large data sets remain the province of radiology, keeping radiologists at the center of the image interpretation process.

But other specialists are entering the picture. Many of the PACS vendors that exhibited at the meeting now offer image management products aimed at two other specialties with extensive imaging needs: cardiologists and orthopedists.

In announcing its new name, SCAR did not identify any specific groups. But it's clear the organization intends to reach outside radiology.

"Expanding SCAR's scope will be responsive to current SCAR members, many of whom practice both within and outside of radiology, while welcoming new imaging constituencies," said SCAR chair Richard Morin, Ph.D.

Within the imaging informatics community, a similar expansion of scope is occurring at two levels. One is the growing involvement of medical information technology experts in clinical data collection, a process that unites radiology images with related medical data such as lab reports and optical images. The other is the increasing interest in images by nonradiologists. Once there was a debate about whether clinicians should be sent the images. Now clinician access to images is an accepted fact.

Does radiology risk being marginalized? Not yet, but these trends suggest that radiology must stay on its toes to assure the profession remains at the center. There was plenty of evidence at the meeting that this is taking place.

Sessions on workflow and productivity re-vealed just how much radiologists are focused on providing good service. For example, a number of presentations focused on speech recognition technology and its ability to reduce report turnaround times, an important issue for referring clinicians. Presentations also concentrated on ways to better manage radiologist time at the workstation, so that emergent studies get priority. As a result, patients and referring physicians are not inconvenienced because interpretations are unavailable when they meet for consultations.

Sessions on 3D imaging labs and ways to deal with large data sets illustrated new approaches to managing the imaging process. One element of 3D imaging involves assisting radiologists with their interpretations, but another entails helping referring clinicians better understand imaging findings.

These are the types of steps radiology will need to take as the image management picture becomes more diffuse. Radiologists have traditionally served as the imaging experts for referring clinicians and will continue to do so, but their role is broadening. In addition to interpreting imaging information, it is essential that they understand and manage its evolution better than everyone else.

With its name change, SCAR is recognizing this fact. Radiologists will need to do the same as the digital revolution in medicine continues.