Radiology’s influence reaches deep, informing and inspiring the diagnoses that generate positive outcomes for patients and streamline workflows for healthcare systems.
The scale is immense. In England alone, 41.4 million medical imaging tests were reported in the 12 months from December 2016 to November 2017. The capacity to save digital information has doubled every 40 months since the 1980s and Dr Amit Kharat, writing in the Indian Journal of Radiology and Imaging in 2017, observed that big data is a technology “whose time has come”.
He is not alone in believing that radiology can contribute even more to clinical decisions as technology advances. But navigating oceans of data presents challenges as well as opportunities.
Radiology departments are feeling the strain across Europe and around the world. They need sophisticated systems to support their expertise, collate digital information and ensure they synchronize with other departments along the various treatment pathways. The pressure is on to provide accurate and timely diagnoses, a theme reinforced by the UK’s Department of Health’s Getting It Right First Time project (GIRFT), which aims to save the NHS £1.5bn per year.
Projects like GRIFT are symptomatic of a desire to raise awareness of radiology and what it involves, particularly among patients.
“Diagnostic imaging and intervention are integral to virtually all patient pathways,” says Dr Caroline Rubin, a consultant radiologist at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust in the UK, with special interests in education and training. “We use it for diagnosis and monitoring courses of treatment and to change it depending on how patients respond.
Radiologists are an unsung part of healthcare; not enough people know what radiologists and radiographers do even though the vast majority of people will have had an image taken in their life.