Technology Resolutions

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We always launch into the new year with a slew of resolutions. Besides those bad habits to cast off, we promise ourselves we'll be better organized, put our priorities in order, maximize our time, learn to delegate and outsource what we can. In the imaging realm, making our businesses better, too, means re-assessing our market and what we offer - do we provide the services we should for patients and physicians? Is our team strong? Is staff efficient as possible - and not too busy to be pleasant to patients, too? Are we eyeing trends in the market, such as growing obesity rates?

On the heels of RSNA, there are a variety of technologies we should take a closer look at. "RSNA in Review" on page 14 provides trends and an overview of product debuts at the show.

Many RSNA-goers were taking a more serious look at digital radiography than ever before. The number of installs is increasing (even though U.S. market penetration is only about 2 percent; growth is slated at 15 percent this year), and the number of vendors has stabilized. System features are automated and most facilities are replacing five x-ray rooms with two, for example, with reductions in procedure time and staff and surges in total number of exams per day. Prices are coming down as well. If you've already got CR - is it meeting your needs? Compare CR with flat-panel or CCD-based DR and determine what should be in your one- to three-year plan.

Among the other technologies to investigate are multislice CT, PET, ultrasound and digital mammography. Most facilities are re-assessing their multislice CT strategies, since knowing when to jump into 16-, 32-, 40- or 64-slice demands some multifaceted due diligence. Don't ignore the network and storage requirements and reading needs of these high slice count and volumetric images.

PET needs to be taken more seriously from a competitive standpoint - with estimates showing PET installs will jump 20 to 30 percent per year for the next three years. And look for ways to improve ergonomics in ultrasound imaging - with statistics showing that 80 percent of sonographers have repetitive stress injuries and 20 percent of them are debilitated from them. The pool of good sonographers is too small to ignore it anymore.

Many a serious eye are being cast on digital mammography, with end-users sharing successes, the availability of multi-modality, multi-vendor workstations that finally solve single-vendor limitations and new high-resolution mammography displays from a variety of vendors. CAD also is helping out, and more cost-effective CR-based digital options are in the FDA pipeline and expected to be available this year.

Across the department and throughout the enterprise, resolutions and wise investments you make this year in information technology - PACS, RIS, storage, EMRs - to manage all of this vital patient information will put you ahead in years to come. IT is the glue that holds it all together - and we should all resolve to make the best of it.