A change is coming. Imaging Technology News
I took my family to Blockbuster this weekend to pick up a movie, hopefully something cool to rent. Then I realized it wasn’t 2001. Blockbuster was disruptive for the entertainment industry, but transitional as innovations continued to change how we consume media. We have gone through a transformational time in the imaging space as we went from film to filmless PAX 3.0.
A new wave of innovation is coming that will reshape how we capture, diagnose and store images.
from acquisition to collection
Over the years we’ve talked about the cloud and its role in architecture. We are now increasingly moving towards true cloud-based infrastructure as organizations seek to segment their data centers due to cost and risk. Vendors are working diligently to redesign their solutions to be not only cloud-enabled but also cloud native. There is limited value in moving existing solutions to the cloud due to the challenges associated with DICOM and the simple math of getting the images to the desktop at the speed needed to read them effectively.
There are many start-up companies that are rushing to the market to demonstrate their ability to provide imaging models that are no better than the solutions we have used. They are taking advantage of some of the same kind of streaming technology that we have all become accustomed to in how we watch movies. I believe that over the next several years we will see a shift in the consumption of medical imaging from acquisition to collection and all the stages in between.
One of the challenges our industry will face is absorbing the costs associated with change. Most imaging projects are funded based on the “burning platform” concept. It is difficult to generate funding for replacement technology for a number of reasons unless there is something counterproductive in the decision making. So, while there is great promise for future workflow improvements, it will take time for our industry to achieve this. But as legacy systems continue to be removed due to outdated technology and design, I believe we will see a stronger move towards cloud native solutions.
Architecture is not the only reason this change has happened. Just as we experience entertainment now, we will see a shift away from a capital expenditure model for technology to a software as a service based cost per study. But there are also challenges to how this can be justified. All cloud providers charge based on storage, size, entry and exit. The more a study is used, the more one can expect to pay for the subscription. Many providers I have spoken to do not have an empirical understanding of image usage. While there are very specific ways for radiologists to access and use historical priors, that data is often not determined to build a business model for cloud consumption. But it will become important, and vendors will have to provide reporting to their customers for it.
An interesting component of this transformational technology is the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into the workflow. There are certainly many use cases for AI in reading workflows, but the industry will be changed in other ways by AI. There are some compelling ideas on how to leverage AI from scheduling to appropriate usage criteria to clerical to billing, which will be talked about. And while many of those steps cannot be managed in “PACS,” the future of enterprise architecture that includes imaging will certainly accommodate these solutions.
We have worked in commoditized landscape since last 20 years. Things have changed – but slowly. A truly transformative change is happening now and I believe we will see the world very differently in the next decade. There are a lot of problem statements in radiology that can be solved with innovative design and deployment.
I look forward to seeing it happen.
Jeff Williams is managing Partner for Paragon Consulting Partners LLC, a Sacramento, Calif., based healthcare IT consulting group.