Q: Can you explain why it’s important to see imaging as a system?
From electronic medical records to picture archiving, communications systems (PACS), clinical databases and billing systems, health data is often distributed and sequestered across many applications and departments. This makes it hard to compile a comprehensive view of individual patients and populations. We’re approaching imaging as an ecosystem in which technology and data connect seamlessly to empower all the stakeholders involved in imaging to create diagnostic-quality images. By merging data with clinical expertise at the modality and image processing levels, we can help streamline the path to a confident diagnosis and provide the greatest value to patients, providers and health systems.
Q: What is an example of a patient need in the imaging ecosystem?
Comfort is a primary one. Whether it’s a routine procedure or an acute situation, a patient’s level of comfort and stress can impact the diagnostic imaging process – from the physiological effects of stress on image acquisition in PET/CT1 to stress-related movement that can impede high-value, completed scans in MR and other modalities. We recently investigated patient needs in imaging with a first-of-its-kind, imaging-focused comprehensive patient study. Our Patient Experience in Imaging research looked at some 600 diagnostic imaging patients in terms of their satisfaction, expectations, preferences and unmet needs. The results showed that patients identified communication, comfort and safety as very important.
Q: Does patient comfort have clinical and operational impacts?
Yes. Research into the effects of patient stress on behavioral and physiological factors critical to imaging quality are revealing the significant clinical, operational and financial impact of patient-centered imaging. In a study evaluating 172 patients undergoing diagnostic exams, 69 percent experienced high levels of anxiety – which can lead to hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system and produce symptoms that can directly influence exam results.2 In another study, anxiety symptoms – including increased heart rate and blood pressure – were reported in up to 30 percent of patients undergoing MRI scans.3 In addition, a range of stress-induced behaviors, including inability to lie still, hold the breath for the required time or cope with being in a small, enclosed space, can affect the clarity and quality of images. In a recent article in PatientEngagementHIT.com, Creating Positive Experiences in Specialty Care Settings, Dr. Jennifer Kemp, diagnostic radiologist at Diversified Radiology, made a strong point that if patients are less fearful because they know what to expect, they will be better able to comply with imaging exam requirements such as holding their breath. Dr. Kemp noted how even a simple thing such as telling patients how long they are going to have to hold their breath can make a big difference.
Q: What is the financial impact of ignoring the human factor in imaging?
As global healthcare spending continues to rise, cost containment in imaging will remain a major concern for health systems. The prevalence of low-value imaging – and efforts to reduce it by targeting imaging appropriateness, acquisition and quality parameters – will be prioritized, especially in high-cost modalities.