Last week, many of the biggest names in medical imaging informatics came together in Portland, Oregon for the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting, where they discussed the future of the field. The conference was full of insightful presentations from those on the leading edge of imaging IT.
Below is a look at some of the key questions raised, discussed, and (sometimes) answered
Are we really doing patient-centric care?
The opening session kicked off the conference with a keynote from Dr. Rasu B. Shrestha, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who spoke on the medical industry’s imperative to focus on “patient-centric care”. He described and critiqued the current trend of an image-centric culture and encouraged the audience and the industry to adopt a paradigm that strives to care for a patient throughout every interaction with the medical world as opposed to merely chasing a cure and stopping there. This idea really set the tone for the rest of the conference and established a clear call to action for the radiology community.
How can we overcome the challenges facing Enterprise Imaging?
Another main theme, closely intertwined with patient-centric care, and a primary track of the conference, was enterprise imaging. In previous years, the SIIM conference discussion treated enterprise imaging conceptually, but this year the discussion was much more pragmatic and focused on obstacles to achieving full implementation. Some of these obstacles included the workflow conflict between order-based and encounter-based models and the debate of standardizing all images as DICOM format or offering broad support for XDS. Organizational challenges in implementation also surfaced, as informatics departments struggle to define their transition from a radiology-centric function to providing enterprise-wide support. These interdepartmental conflicts resulting from a history of siloed efforts, are well worth overcoming in the name of patient-centric care.
How will we address the new requirements for Clinical Decision Support?
The other big topic addressed at the conference was the arrival of Clinical Decision Support (CDS). In January of 2018, a new law will come into effect withholding payment from all claims processed without documented CDS use. This is understandably a big change for the medical imaging industry, as these complex software systems require vast implementation plans that address the need for hospitals to seamlessly integrate them with existing documentation databases. This mandate is coming soon and planning needs to start now.
Will radiologists lose their jobs to Watson?
The closing keynote of the conference was led by Eliot Siegel, Professor and Vice Chair Research Informatics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, as well as Chief of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine for the Veterans Affairs Maryland Healthcare System. He discussed the role of radiologists in a future full of “artificial intelligences” like Watson, but brought the audience to the conclusion that there is no reason for doctors to fear their replacement. Siegel established a very important distinction between “weak and strong” AIs. According to Siegel, the former are non-sentient and are usually narrowly suited to a particular task. The latter are only seen today in science fiction, as they are sentient, conscious existences with general, human-like intelligence. Watson is still very far away from strong AIs, and the complex task of image analysis is impossible to attack in full by any weak AI alone. Although Watson Health Imaging is developing impressive applications in this field, the power will be in the hands of the radiologist to use for their benefit as they address the pressures of rising workloads and decreasing reimbursement.
If you didn’t have a chance to attend the SIIM conference, you can still take advantage of one of its current significant developments. SIIM has partnered with HIMSS to increase the incorporation of imaging into the enterprise. The SIIM/HIMSS collaboration has begun to release a series of white papers in this area, which can be found here