The future is nuanced

As I scroll through this week’s top stories I’m struck by the various ways the future seems to be upon us and the overarching message that these disparate stories seem to bring.

Surgeons at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have leveraged 3D printing to produce models of patient’s anatomy and improve the surgical planning process. It may be just a glimpse of the possibilities that come from pairing the technology with imaging modalities.

Another major advance is single-click ensemble segmentation, tumor segmentation software that delivers consistent, replicable analysis of tumors. One goal of the crowd-sourced project is “to eliminate the need for human intervention.” Early results are promising.

At the other end of the timeline, an accurate definition of stroke has eluded physicians for more than 2,000 years. The American Stroke Association and American Heart Association released a consensus document that redefined stroke as a heterogeneous disorder and includes various subtypes of ischemic stroke. It’s a major step forward.

Another development once heralded as a major win for patient safety—radiation dose reporting requirements—may not be quite such a boon, according to an article published online May 10 in Journal of the American College of Radiology. The authors asserted that the law has potential to subject radiologists to new and unvalidated standards, restrict necessary adjustments to imaging protocols and mislead patients, as well as provide a foundation for lawsuits. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are “licking their collective chops” at the easily accessible radiation dose data, the authors wrote.

Conventional wisdom was thwarted again in a skillfully crafted piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek that suggested the path to better healthcare lies in lower spending. For instance, one upside of the recession is a drop in smoking rates. Obesity rates also dipped since 2009.

Oh, and that overarching message? The future of radiology is big and broad. Providers who emphasize a strategic understanding of trends in healthcare, policy and demographics—and not simply the bits and bytes of imaging data—will be best positioned.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Lisa Fratt, editor