My patient is at the very heart of all I do, so I’m constantly putting myself in my patient’s shoes and ensuring that what I am doing is useful and makes a meaningful contribution to the patient’s care, so that the time, effort and anxiety associated with a staging examination is worth it. But I also feel an obligation to consider the patient of tomorrow. To ensure we can make meaningful contributions in the future, radiologists must cast a critical eye on recent technological advancements. Many won’t add value, but some will redefine what it means to deliver it.
Many of these innovations are a new attempt at old medical wisdom and reflect something I’ve long believed in: truly involving a patient in their care. This can mean empowering them with access to their reports or making sure they understand what’s going on with their health. In my experience, patients fare better when they are guided through a journey that can be challenging, and one they may have never anticipated. And I’m not alone: the 2019 Future Health Index report found that 82% of those with access to their digital health record (DHR) described their personal experience of care as good, very good or excellent, compared to 66% of those without access. This is value, by any measure.
Radiologists were once called ‘the doctor’s doctor’ because of our ability to connect the dots on a case. Thanks to our understanding of both technology and patient-centered care, I think we can justifiably reclaim this title. My fellow radiologists have a reputation for being particularly keen to embrace these new offerings. This is also borne out in the 2019 Future Health Index report; it showed that 56% of radiologists reported AI use in their practice compared to 46% of healthcare professionals. And, of those who do use AI, more radiologists are doing so to flag anomalies (56%) and improve the accuracy of diagnosis (53%) than healthcare professionals (46% and 45% respectively).
But technology is only ever as useful as the value it helps us deliver. When I first encounter new digital health technology, I take a step back and assess how it can help me to deliver better patient-centered care. I need to be convinced that it’s meaningful and impactful, and not just some exciting new widget that is of little use to my patients. I use this same judgement whether I’m dealing with a simple scheduling program, something that helps me embed best-practice recommendations into my report, or a cutting-edge imaging tool. Once I am satisfied, I will do all I can to embrace this new advance for the sake of my patients.