Lights, camera, imaging! Online videos can have a big impact on radiology

Whether we like it or not, the digital age is here. Smartphones are everywhere, the internet is king and social media is being used as a tool for ... well, just about everything imaginable.

To radiology’s credit, the industry continues to find new ways to take advantage of these technological advances. Specialists use hashtags to stay informed, for example, and journals use Twitter to grow their audiences and engage with readers.

According to a recent study published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology, there’s a new way radiology is using the digital age to its advantage: educating patients through informative online videos.

The most obvious benefit of using these videos is that it helps patients learn about an especially complex side of healthcare. Medical imaging can be intimidating to patients, especially when they’ve gone their whole life without giving the subject much thought and suddenly find out their health is at risk. One of the first thing patients are going to do when they think they may need an examination is look it up online, and when those frantic searches reveal helpful, engaging video content, it’s going to help answer a whole lot of questions.

There are additional benefits to these videos. For instance, reimbursements rely on a radiologist’s ability to demonstrate his or her quality, and much of that is tied to the perception of patients. By emphasizing the role of the radiologist in interpreting images, the videos can work wonders for a patient’s perception.

Another benefit is that there can be more than one video on any topic. Patient advocacy groups, healthcare organizations and vendors all have the ability to produce their own educational material, so no single entity will be in charge of what the videos do or do not say.

To be sure, this is also a danger of educating patients with online content—an unqualified user can upload content to a website as easily as one who is qualified—but the medical imaging community can guard against this by being careful, organized and focused.

I am not suggesting healthcare providers rely exclusively on online content to educate patients. But it’s a readily available resource, and it’s one that patients and their families can access in seconds. It would be unwise to ignore it.