Three Imaging Trends to Watch for in 2020

Ambra Health's CEO offers insight into what 2020 -- and beyond -- could bring in radiology.

Will the 2020s be the roaring twenties of healthcare? There is much that remains to be seen as many questions loom over the real efficiency level of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, patient control over data and its usage, and interoperability across vendors.

1) AI-Powered Tools Must Create More Efficient Workflows

It seems like a minute can’t go by without hearing of another AI tool that could help physicians make clinical decisions faster. This is an exciting space as tools have been shown to accurately identify lung nodules and breast tumors much faster than the human eye. Tools like this could greatly speed up the daily workflow of a busy radiologist. However, many tools still need training; they rely on feedback from the physician on whether they are correct or not. The hope is that over time the training of the algorithm will produce a far more accurate real-time decision. However, training takes increased time for the user of the product.

Additionally, there may be a disconnect between the creators of the application and the end users whether it’s physicians, nurses, technologists, etc. Will users be willing to devote the necessary time to AI tool improvements? This remains to be seen in 2020.

2) Ensuring Patient Consent and Understanding of Data Use

We know that patient consent is important when it comes to any procedure, treatment, and overall care. However, the concept of patient consent is evolving considerably in today’s era of big data.

HIPAA works to protect patient data from illegal usage and makes clear that patients own their healthcare data. Things get complicated once that same data has been completely anonymized; it is often then free for hospitals to use and sometimes even sell. As Adam Tanner, a fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, shares in his book, Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records, many patients don’t realize that their data are being sold.

This may mean that facilities will need to overhaul traditional consent forms and explain to patients in jargon-free language how their data could potentially be used. As hospital and radiology practice mergers continue to occur, facilities must also update patients on the applicable policies of new institutions.

Patients should also be offered access to a patient portal where they can act as the owners of their medical data and images and use them as they please, including seeking second opinions.

3) Educational Societies Pushing Towards Interoperability

Vendors don’t always like to share but that may change with major groups pushing towards increased interoperability. The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Carequality, and the Sequoia Project, have developed an Imaging Data Exchange Implementation Guide Supplement to improve the technical standards that support the exchange of medical images.

The goal of the project is to eliminate CDs, which frequently cause serious care delays. Imaging on CDs can take days to arrive and, in the worst-case scenarios, cause a patient to have repeat imaging. Ambra Health, Life Image, and Philips Healthcare are three early vendors that have adapted to the Carequality Imaging Data Exchange Implementation program.

We hope that in 2020 vendors will work together to improve overall patient care and share imaging data more freely.