Image transfer challenges curtail radiologists’ productivity

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A lack of standardization of radiology diagnostic viewing platforms presents multiple challenges to radiologist workflows, hampering efforts to exchange images and collaborate on diagnoses.

These challenges frequently occur when images from other providers come to a radiologist’s facility in the form of a compact disc, which then may have to be loaded on a viewing system different from the system that the radiologist is currently using.

Consequently, three radiologists assert in a recent study, the reliable and consistent review of images from one organization sent to other organizations can be sub-optimal. The study was recently published in the journal Healio Orthopedics Today.

“Ideally, these platforms would access and display all images from the original examination with level of quality sufficient to make accurate diagnoses and to plan appropriate therapeutic interventions,” note orthopedic surgeons Paul Lichstein at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Scott Wilson at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, NC, and William Ward, Sr. at Novant Health, also in Winston-Salem.

“This is not often the case and may lead to duplication of radiographic evaluation, repeat exposure to ionizing radiation, delayed treatment, inaccuracy in diagnosis and increased overall cost of administering patient care,” the clinicians contend.

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Lack of image-viewing standards leads to several major concerns, according to the authors: many different viewing software platforms encountered (a total of 18 for these three physician authors), which makes familiarity with platforms difficult; loading image data can take considerable time; data may not upload or be viewable via the picture archiving and communication system; navigation is inconsistent and tedious; and image viewing may require additional software downloads.

“Additionally, images generated from ‘outside’ CDs are frequently of low quality and resolution, eliminating the ability to render a reliable diagnosis,” the authors say. “The practical result of these problems is suboptimal radiographic information transfer to the clinician that compromises patient care.”

Lichstein, Wilson and Ward acknowledge that despite creation of regional PACS networks among care facilities, the CD remains the most frequently used transfer vehicle.

To start the effort toward standardization, the authors give a series of recommendations. They include a standard base level of functionality and intuitivism, a base level of quality images that accompany each patient transfer, use of true non-compressed DICOM images that easily download and render images capable of review for primary diagnosis on a basic viewing platform, and imaging date presented in a consistent format.

The complete study is available here.

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