Imaging Imagined

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Predicting the future is enticing—if only we could look inside a crystal ball and see what the future has in store. While a crystal ball can’t truly offer a future glimpse, a lot of people spend a lot of time looking forward and creating the technology vision of tomorrow. As you’ll see in this month’s cover story, we’ve gathered the thoughts of leaders on their vision for 2012.

What we won’t find are islands of data, CT slice wars or a need for data migration (IT systems will take care of that). Look for technology to fulfill enterprise-level demands; department decisions that contribute data to the overall enterprise. Healthcare enterprises will be investing in clinical IT, storage and archiving solutions (the latter two at reduced rates), as well as volumetric CT scanners (careful not to say multislice, we’re moving into the age of volume CT). If you eyed some of the latest and greatest CT systems rolling out at the recent RSNA meeting, you know that upcoming generations of scanners will be more adaptive, bring spatial and temporal resolution gains, provide more data elements faster, and use less contrast media. Significant radiation dose cuts are a sure bet.

So how will radiologists and other specialists view the growing data sets of upwards of 10,000 images? Rules-based, anticipatory automation software will organize images more intuitively on larger PACS screens. Keyboards and mice will be optional for image navigation. Lab values, waveforms, a wide variety of images such as pathology, ENT and GI, and detailed reports will be intuitively displayed on multi-touch screens.

With the radiologist as diagnostic consultant, workflow optimization is king. Value and differentiation come from imaging excellence, subspecialization of reads, reports that are structured, detailed and easy-to-use and quick communication (and confirmation) of results and availability for collaboration via multiple means. Server technology will make the image transfer burden invisible and all image manipulation and viewing tools will be available anywhere. Think thin-client and intuitive interplay with diagnostician and image. Advanced visualization applications will expand, too, into areas such as GI, vascular imaging, surgery and trauma, while longitudinal software will allow disease and cancer therapy monitoring over time. Computer-aided detection also will play a larger role, lending a helping hand in colon, prostate and even musculoskeletal and body imaging.

Simplification of information display and design will drive speed, institutional knowledge, and we hope, improve quality of care for us all.