RSNA: Prez Arenson challenges rads to ‘boldly go’ into an innovative future

CHICAGO—The theme of this year’s RSNA annual meeting is “Innovation is the key to our future,” and RSNA President Ronald L. Arenson, MD, took those words to heart in his opening address, comparing modern day technologies to that of Star Trek, but urging attendees to stay involved in order to adopt such innovations.

“There’s never been a more exciting time for radiology,” said Arenson, who is also a professor and chair of the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco.

One certainly can’t argue with the pace of technological advancement. Arenson ticked off a list of ubiquitous gadgets, such as smart phones and video chat, that where once sci-fi visions of the future.

Specifically within imaging, Arenson pointed to advances in metabolic and molecular imaging, which is granting physicians important knowledge about cell function, as well as high intensity focused ultrasound, which is poised to move beyond early uses in treating uterine fibroids to applications in the brain, bone and liver.

Steerable catheters, transarterial chemoembolization and hyperpolarized C-13 MR contrast all got a mention, as well as initiatives such as IHE, Radlex and the RSNA Image Share Network. Looking ahead, Arenson cited looming breakthroughs in quantum computing and ultrafast 2D cameras. IBM’s acquisition of Merge was designed to take the Watson platform, already much hyped for its potential applications in healthcare, and “give it eyes.”

“When it comes to medicine, what was a novelty on Star Trek has become a reality today, again thanks to the miraculous advance of technology,” said Arenson.

However, amidst the celebration of these innovations, there was also an acknowledgement of the challenges. Radiology is still consistently identified as one of the key drivers of increased costs, and new models threaten to isolate radiology and invoke the specter of commodification.

These challenges underscore the need for the profession to demonstrate value, according to Arenson, but here he remained optimistic.

“Radiology innovation is a vital component of keeping healthcare costs manageable no matter where on the globe you practice,” he said.

What can radiologists and other imaging stakeholders do to help translate today’s amazing innovations into true value? Arenson offered four suggestions in closing:

  • Be an adopter of new technology
  • Be patient-centric
  • Participate in collaborative initiatives like the Image Share Network and IHE
  • Get involved with the Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers Alliance

“Innovation is our future,” said Arenson. “Each of us has a part to play in one of the most exciting eras ever in radiology.”