Digital Health: Enabling the post-COVID-19 transition in imaging
The coronavirus pandemic has created a paradigm shift in imaging. Not only have imaging centers faced the need for rapid implementation of strict protocols for patient management, decontamination of equipment and social distancing, these centers have also experienced steep declines in the number of studies being performed.
The decrease in imaging studies across the U.S. is estimated to have reached 63.6% in April 2020.1 But, some areas have been hit harder. In New York City, for example, the combined volume of CT and MRI cases declined by an average of 65% (range, 51%-80.9%) across five major academic centers as compared to prior year.2
Overall, the largest decreases in imaging studies have occurred in the elective, outpatient setting (70%), given the risk to patients, technologists and staff. However, inpatient and emergency room imaging studies have also declined by about 50%.3
As healthcare providers in many states are gaining some control over the COVID-19 crisis, the demand for most imaging services should rebound as postponed, but necessary imaging studies are rescheduled. Outpatient imaging centers are reopening to a “new normal” where enhanced decontamination and hygiene protocols, as well as personal protective equipment, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The backlog of studies will require imaging centers to be nimble in how they make up for lost time and revenue, which may include adding hours to fit more patients per day. However, this comes at a price to the radiologists who will feel the burden of longer hours, added workload and strain on cognitive functions. More than ever, radiologists will need solutions that alleviate their workload while maintaining the highest levels of precision in imaging interpretation.
To ensure imaging centers are well positioned for the coming transition and well beyond, digital solutions with artificial intelligence are a must-have. AI-powered digital solutions can aid imaging centers in managing workload via automation, enabling image interpretation and improving efficiency. These solutions can seamlessly integrate into the clinical workflow to alleviate the burden of repetitive tasks and amount of correction steps, which in turn help the radiologists improve their diagnostic accuracy.
All these capabilities enable the individual radiologists within the radiology practice to work more efficiently to drive workload and revenue potential. But, more importantly, the AI-powered algorithms and automation enable the radiologists to spend the needed time and focus on the clinically complex cases, as well as help to increase diagnostic precision for interpreting medical images.
The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for some time. But, whether in the short or long term, imaging centers will benefit from solutions that enable automation and workflow efficiencies, reduce variability and improve precision. These solutions will ensure the “new normal” holds a bright future.
For more information on how AI can help imaging centers, go to Siemens Healthineers Digital Health Solutions.
About the Author
Liana Romero, PhD, MBA, MT (ASCP), is the Head of Global Marketing, Clinical Decision Solutions, Digital Health, for Siemens Healthineers GmbH.
- Quinsite. 2020. COVID-19 Update. April. https://www.quinsite.com/news.
- Phillips, C.D., Shatzkes, D.R., Moonis, G., Hsu, K.A., Doshi, A., and Filippi, C.G. 2020. From the eye of the storm: Multi-institutional practical perspectives on neuroradiology from the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. American Journal of Neuroradiology. April 15. https://doi.org/10.3174/ajnr.A6565.
- Cavallo, J., and Forman, H. 2020. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on radiology practices. Radiology. April 15. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2020201495.
- The Medical Futurist. 2020. Life after COVID-19: What will change? April 21. https://medicalfuturist.com/life-after-covid-19-what-will-change/#.
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