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8 major IT trends from the 2017 RSNA conference
Key trends, particularly artificial intelligence, dominated the discussion at the annual scientific assembly and annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held this week in Chicago. Maturing uses for advanced information technology were emerging as reasonable alternatives to help radiologists cope with new pressures to improve efficiency and handle increasing workloads. Here’s a rundown of some of the major themes seen in this year’s RSNA show.
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1. Artificial intelligence is everywhere
The use of artificial intelligence for radiology could be seen everywhere at RSNA. From exhibit floor presentations to educational sessions, practical uses for AI were on center stage, whether to assist with reading and managing radiological images, managing workflows or helping radiologists better organize their workdays.
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2. Companies find partners to advance AI
A number of long-time radiology information system companies announced partnerships with vendors that are developing algorithms intended to assist imaging studies or radiologists managing their work. For example, Change Healthcare announced a partnership with Zebra Medical Vision to bring artificial intelligence to its solutions. In another agreement, speech recognition platform vendor Nuance and NVIDIA, which offers a deep learning platform, said they’ll work together to bring AI to radiologists and data scientists. The rush to partner is an effort to find ways to use AI at appropriate places in the workflow in order to help clinicians do their jobs.
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3. The panic over AI lessens—a little
At last year’s RSNA conference, there was rising concern that intelligence technologies would eventually replace radiologists. Some of those concerns appear to have lessened this year, as solutions on the exhibit floor aimed to demonstrate how IT could eventually eliminate some of the mundane reading that radiologists do, enabling them to focus on challenging cases that require human intelligence and interaction with other clinicians. One quote from a presentation put it this way: “AI won’t replace radiologists; but radiologists that don’t know how to use AI eventually will be replaced.”
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4. Large providers are dabbling in deep learning
Industry leaders, such as Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic demonstrated some of their efforts to use deep learning to improve care and services from radiologists. Early results have been promising in helping better diagnose and treat specific diseases, says Luciano Prevedello, MD, head of the division of imaging informatics at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
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5. More images may move to the cloud
The debate is growing about whether healthcare organizations should store radiological images on their premises in large data centers or move them to some type of cloud storage system—or both. Wait, it gets more nuanced than that—should analytics be applied in the cloud, or other services? What about security? Access rates? Uptime? Healthcare organizations are likely to hash out individual strategies for image storage, and vendors are trying to offer flexible products that cover all potential directions. As in other areas of healthcare IT, cloud computing seems to be gaining favor.
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6. Providers seek better integration of RIS with clinical systems
Despite progress in interoperability, many radiology information systems are separate and distinct from other clinical systems. That can be challenging for radiologists, who spend most of their time reviewing and analyzing images on one system, while having to draw clinical information from other systems. That’s not efficient, and providers are looking for ways to enable radiologists to more easily use both systems without a lot of duplicative work.
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Doctor and Patient viewing X-Ray/MRI scans of her back and discussing her condition
7. Radiology can support patient engagement
Radiologists play a critical role in clinical care, but many patients don’t see their contribution. As the healthcare industry seeks to get patients more involved in their care, radiologists must boost their efforts to provide information that’s understandable and more engaging for patients. Even something as “simple” as including radiological images in reports, however, is challenging because of interoperability issues, and the impact that additional work has on radiologists’ time and workflow.
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8. Radiologists get entrenched in care delivery

As Paul Chang, MD, vice chair of radiology informatics at the of the University of Chicago Hospitals puts it, radiological procedures are the “gateway drug” for healthcare delivery—in other words, what radiologists find often influences the care that patients get. But technology and the advent of value-based care can enable radiologists to be involved with a patient’s care team throughout the continuum of care a patient receives. That can elevate radiologists’ roles and increase their value, Chang and others contend.