4 best practices for building an AI-enabled imaging ecosystem

Burnout is an unfortunate reality for radiologists today. Many are recognizing, however, that technology and artificial intelligence can help restore joy to their profession.

During a June webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by IBM Watson Health, two health and technology experts from IBM Watson Health shared best practices for building a next-generation imaging ecosystem:

  • David Gruen, MD, MBA, FACR, chief medical officer
  • Sean McCarthy, leader, enterprise growth initiatives

Four key insights:

1. It is essential to put patients at the center of the digital transformation. Patients are now using new digital front doors to seek care anywhere. To win their loyalty, providers must focus on patient engagement and streamlining the patient experience. This means consolidating their images and healthcare data in one place. "It should be easy for any clinician or patient to access images, even if they don't have access to the EMR or the picture-archiving and communication system," Mr. McCarthy said.

2. Healthcare organizations need to create a data-centered operation. The key is to capture all the imaging data and enable pathways so all clinicians can see the information. Radiology modalities and imaging techniques are constantly improving, so systems must be flexible enough to adapt to changes over time. Modern data management also must be scalable, since the volumes of information are also growing.

3. The imaging environment must make the radiologist's job easier. Radiologists today face onerous workflows. Next-generation imaging ecosystems must enable clinicians to look at patient records without disruption. One way to simplify the work is to offer providers actionable insights. AI is an effective tool for highlighting information hidden in images or EMR data. "To support diagnoses, radiologists need the ability to analyze huge volumes of data and pull out the deeper clinical context," Mr. McCarthy said. "AI and automation can generate automated views of the patient context, as well as answers to frequently asked questions."

4. Selecting the right platform can accelerate digital transformation. "With the new digital patient care continuum, everything needs to be integrated, and clinical workspaces must be supercharged," Mr. McCarthy said. Watson Health's imaging program platform is designed with a vendor-neutral archive at the center. The vendor-neutral archive aggregates all patient data, regardless of its source, and AI is embedded in workflows. Watson Health then delivers information to the doctors' clinical workspaces. Consolidating systems into a single platform simplifies management and resource allocation. This consolidation generates a return on investment that justifies digital transformation initiatives.

For AI to be successful, it must simplify radiologists' daily routines.

"This means moving from narrow AI, which uses one algorithm at a time, to infusing broad AI into all the data in a seamless way. To accomplish these goals, you need a platform and a cloud strategy," Dr. Gruen said. "The future is exciting. We're going to transform the way we take care of patients."

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