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Cloud migration, teleradiology and enhanced patient access to medical records could emerge as dominant trends in radiology this year.
Health care is an extremely dynamic field. The Economist magazine recently noted that health care is becoming a “consumer product.” We are all health care consumers and there have never been more innovations to consume.
If you want to improve fitness, there is an app for that. However, at a deeper level, we are developing an app-based approach for complex medical data to address our most serious health challenges. Look no further than advances in oncology and neurodegenerative diseases.
Radiology is critical to these advances. You can feel it in the intensity in any hospital and the hopefulness in patients and their families. How was the scan? What does it tell me?
None of this is easy. Radiologists are being asked to do more, and many worry that burnout is a significant problem. Perhaps fueled by a greater awareness of radiology benefits, the global radiology market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7 percent through 2027. However, we are not keeping up in terms of the number of people joining the profession of radiology.
All this adds up to an extremely exciting and challenging time to be a radiologist. A few years back, some said that artificial intelligence (AI) would replace radiologists. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, we are seeing technology changes that are supercharging what radiologists can do and what they can become. Accordingly, let us consider three key trends that may power this transformation in 2022.
Recognizing the Benefits of Cloud Migration
Health-care providers will more rapidly move to the cloud. If health-care providers aren’t already in the midst of this migration, 2022 will be the year that even more start moving to the cloud. Valued at $23.7 million two years ago, the health care cloud computing market will more than double to $52.3 million by 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence.
While many put off this change due to cost or time constraints, the move to the cloud is a strategic driver that will enable health-care providers to digitize, innovate, and realize strategic business objectives. Migrating to the cloud also offers interoperability and a secure way for important data, imaging, and other information to be transmitted quickly and easily anywhere at any time.
In fact, McKinsey & Co. estimates that cloud capabilities have the potential to generate value of up to $170 billion for health-care companies by 2030.
Investments in the cloud will pay great dividends in other ways too, such as supporting advances in medical image management that leverage AI and machine learning. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to help radiologists manage their workload, automating tedious manual processes and enabling greater efficiency in evaluating images. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even accelerated approval of many AI and machine learning algorithms for radiology as a result of the many benefits.
A Closer Look at the Intersection of Supergroups and Teleradiology
Post-COVID teleradiology growth will be fueled by the rise of radiology supergroups. As we enter year three of the pandemic and radiologist burnout continues to grow, there is also an increasing competition for talent that puts pressure on hospitals and practices to improve the employee experience while delivering the best possible care. At the same time, we are seeing increasing consolidation in the market as radiology practices merge into supergroups with regional or national scale and scope.
As these groups continue to merge and grow, many are further embracing teleradiology. This change enables staff to work from anywhere at any time while also providing the ability to support greater flexibility. In all, this not only gives these practices a competitive advantage in recruiting in a tight market, but it can also improve radiologists' quality of life and help address rampant burnout.
Teleradiology also provides great benefits to patients, especially those in underserved or unserved areas, as it gives them access to specialists outside their local market. With the ability to review images and scans remotely, radiologists can, in turn, deliver reports much faster, speeding up the diagnosis and treatment of many conditions.
Bolstering Patient Access to Health Records
Patient experiences will be enhanced by the priority placed on convenient, mobile access. In the past, patients would mostly follow their doctors' orders without much question. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, patients have become much more involved and curious about their own health outcomes. Indeed, a recent report from Deloitte suggests a profound change is on the rise. Patients now do more research to get information on costs and health issues, and they're tracking their conditions more closely while using medical record data to take greater control of their health.
As this trend continues and even more patients begin to demand greater access to their own health records, we’ll also see individuals begin to self-advocate and more closely follow their own diagnosis, treatment, and care. At the same time, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z are increasingly responsible for managing the health of aging family members and their own children. As a result, it will be incumbent upon health-care providers to facilitate easy medical information sharing.
Looking more closely at medical image management, some physicians still must be convinced to ditch the disk and move to an all-digital experience with regard to image sharing. Leading providers will need to become comfortable and adopt technology advancements surrounding the cloud, telehealth and teleradiology to improve the patient access and record sharing experience.
While much of the focus may remain on COVID-19 as variants cause new spikes in infections, 2022 also promises to be a landmark year for medical image management. The move to the cloud, greater reliance on teleradiology and the increasing emergence of AI and machine learning will help ease the stress and burnout experienced by radiologists, making them more efficient and effective in their jobs, and improving work-life balance. Similarly, these technologies will further enhance the patient experience, supporting greater access to care for the underserved and hastening diagnosis and treatment.
Mr. Panner is the president of Intelerad Medical Systems. He was previously the CEO at Ambra Health from 2011 until its acquisition by Intelerad Medical Systems in 2021. Panner is an active voice in the cloud and enterprise software arena and is focused on the service and health-care verticals. He is a frequent contributor to business, health-care, and technology publications. Previously, Panner built and sold an industry-leading business process software company, OpenAir, to NetSuite.