Diagnostic radiologists constantly adapt and change as technology advances. One of those changes has been a marked increase in the review of prior images when radiologists are presented with new radiological images. Prior images are available for review on the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) that stores and digitally transmits electronic images and clinically-relevant reports. Vendor-neutral archive (VNA) solutions aid radiologists' access to prior images across disparate PACS vendor networks. Nevertheless, the transfer of radiological images today faces numerous challenges, requiring physicians, imaging centers, and even hospitals too often to have to resort to burning patients' diagnostic images onto a CD which is physically handed to those patients to transmit to their healthcare providers. This ongoing awkward and ineffective transfer of radiological data via CD has created a concerted effort for change which has become known as the "Ditch the Disc" movement, or #ditchthedisc.
An original article has been published online by the journal, Pediatric Radiology, reporting the outcome of a survey taken to ascertain the imaging-sharing capabilities among children's hospitals across the U.S. After surveying radiology department chairs at the children’s hospitals, the researchers were able to identify the various methods these pediatric radiology departments use for radiologic image sharing, and they were able to quantify many of the ongoing images exchange challenges.
The ongoing use of CDs remains a commonplace challenge among U.S. children’s hospitals. As their pediatric centers attempt move away from CDs, electronic image-sharing platforms are being increasingly used. But while greater than 75% of responding children's hospitals report having a method for electronically sharing image files, half of respondents indicate that the absence of electronic image-sharing capabilities at other institutions or the lack of interoperability between systems remain an ongoing problem.
The researchers observe the downstream negative consequences of the ongoing interoperability challenges, including repeated imaging and duplicative radiation exposure (of particular concern in pediatric patients) and delayed follow-up of incidental findings. They note projections that interoperable image exchange solutions that reduce the need for repeat imaging could result in $9 billion in yearly health care expenditure savings. Of course, the upfront costs of implementation and integration of image-sharing solutions to these problems also remain.
The need to #ditchthedisc is of paramount importance. In my own legal practice, I see hospitals consistently seek rapid turnaround in test results, but radiologists' work is too often delayed or handicapped when prior images are not available to the radiologists for review along with the current study.
Much work remains to be done to fix this challenge!
(Note, for those interested in reading more that the attached abstract of this journal article, it is available for purchase from the publisher.)