SIIM: Millennials peer into the future

ORLANDO, Fla.—In the next decade, imaging will become more data-driven, personalized and safe. Radiologists will harness new tools and technologies to be more responsive to referring physicians and patients, according to a panel of young radiologists who presented “The Millennials Vision: The World as It Could Be,” on June 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM).

A panel of millennials, the generation born between the late 1970s to early 2000s, described how medicine might look in the next five to 10 years. Although some may doubt the wisdom of millennials, Moderator Katherine P. Andriole, PhD, of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, reminded skeptics that this tech-savvy, digital generation will grow to 83 million by 2015. By that time, they are expected to overtake baby boomers in number.

The radiology report
Recent developments in radiology reporting meet the needs of radiologists reasonably well. However, referring physicians and patients continue to receive old-fashioned, text-based reports, noted C. Matthew Hawkins, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Their preferred platforms likely differ from this approach, said Hawkins. They may want embedded hyperlinks, links to images, the ability to store images in teaching files or video consults. “Tablets and smartphones will be ubiquitous in five years,” said Hawkins. The challenges for radiology are to determine how its customers want to consume reports and how results can be communicated directly to patients.

Social media
One communication system that will see increased use in the coming decade is social media. Marc D. Kohli, MD, of Indiana University of School of Medicine in Indianapolis, shared several advantages of social media. Social networks and messaging can be used to improve care, and the internet offers a medium for improved collaboration, he said. Meanwhile, video production has become easy and economical.

Kohli contrasted the timeliness of social media communication with a traditional measure of clinical impact—peer-reviewed publication. “What if the new currency of success becomes YouTube views or Facebook likes?” Although there is no clear answer, it is likely that millennials will spur a shift in this direction.

Safety, quality and efficiency
The next decade will bring ubiquitous deployment of natural language processing, business intelligence, predictive modeling and decision support to provide the right information to physicians at the right time, according to Luciano M.S. Prevedello, MD, of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Robust deployment of these tools will fuel improvements in safety, quality and efficiency.

Advances in personalized medicine will allow radiologists to predict adverse events such as allergic reactions to contrast with greater precision. Highly standardized reports will drive quality improvements, and efficiency will be redefined to encompass quality and safety, said Prevedello.

Meanwhile, Tessa S. Cook, MD, PhD, of Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, foresees a new era of radiation safety, enabled by multiple factors including rich decision support; ultra low-dose imaging; improved CT dosimetry and patient-specific dose estimates that take into account patient size, age, gender and risk factors. In the next decade, radiologists may be able to accurately answer patients’ questions about personal radiation exposure, she said.

Data mining
As processing power and memory grow according to Moore’s law, data mining will mimic other advances in imaging. That is, these functions will become real-time and ubiquitous, said Woojin Kim, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Data mining will change from the current time-consuming, slow process to direct, anytime/anywhere interactions with smart computers such as Watson technology.

Cloud computing, mobile devices
Cloud computing will replace the CD for exchange of medical images, said Wyatt M. Tellis, PhD, of University of California, San Francisco. The RSNA Image Exchange Network provides the first example of this trend. Future applications will extend to genomics and personalized medicine.

While mobile computing has erupted among physicians, it also is expected to expand in patient applications with connected devices such as blood pressure cuffs and scales transmitting real-time data from patients to providers, said Tellis.

The panel agreed that these trends portend a massive amount of information. However, they noted millennials expect access to information and near real-time responsiveness. Asked what older persons don’t understand about millennials, Kohli responded, “Technology can humanize [the clinical] experience. Social media can erase boundaries.”

Whether or not any or all of the predictions come to fruition, the next decade is certain to be fraught with fast and furious change. The savviest among us, from millennials to boomers, will leverage these developments to benefit patients and practice.