RSNA 2015: Innovation, Information, Integration
Chicago recently hosted the 101st annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). While attendance was down from previous years (~47,000 attendees based on advance registration numbers), the meeting presented a unique opportunity to see what’s new in medical imaging, with 661 exhibiting vendors. Attendees came from all corners of the world, with nearly 30% from outside North America.
Themes for RSNA 2015 reflected the economy and the new realities of health care. Vendors exhibited fewer “big iron” devices this year, continuing a trend we’ve observed over the past 2 to 3 years. Underscoring the conference’s main theme, “Embracing Technological Innovation Is Key to Radiology’s Future,” technical exhibits emphasized the importance of workflow, user interface design, staff productivity and the ability to leverage the rich data provided by imaging modalities in the diagnosis, staging, treatment and management of complex diseases.
RSNA Showcased Evolutionary (Not Revolutionary) Change
From a technology perspective, this conference was more evolutionary than revolutionary. Vendors continue to build new value offerings across all modalities, with products that provide more comprehensive features at lower price points. The differences between products aimed at academic medical centers (AMCs) and those marketed to community hospitals have narrowed. For example, the prices for hybrid PET/CT systems have decreased, enabling a community hospital to purchase the same technology as an AMC.
Software, Big Data Differentiate Offerings
In the past, growth in imaging and diagnostics traditionally came from improved technology within imaging equipment (eg, the CT machine with the most slices, the MRI machine with the widest bore). That’s no longer the case. Increasingly, modalities are viewed as “data engines,” as the devices themselves become more and more commoditized. Upgrades and improvements to the imaging tools are still important, but in order to maximize the benefits of these tools, we must to be able to integrate information and analytics, and create new business models for their use.
Vendors will differentiate their offerings based on “what they do with the data” through software and services. This requires a very different conversation between health system and vendor. Focus on the “four Vs” of big data: variety (which different modalities are generating the data?); volume (how much data will you generate?); velocity (how fast will you [or your machines] generate the data?); and veracity (can I trust the quantitative output you generate?). Smart investments will require you to consider the clinical evidence base demonstrating how vendors arrived at their quantitative results (eg, standardized uptake value for SPECT, stiffness value in elastography). For additional questions to ask vendors before making technology purchases, review our online RSNA 2015 Virtual Update Resource Kit.
Workflow and User Interface Drive Results
In a value-based world, increasing the productivity of your staff and eliminating interoperator variability in acquiring imaging studies are key drivers of competitiveness. Evaluating how vendor offerings increase workflow and improve staff efficiency is critical for technology deployment across the health care enterprise. For example, preprogrammed examination cards in ultrasound systems can reduce or eliminate interoperator variability in exam performance and decrease exam time.
Interoperability Is Key to Improving Care
“If radiology images can’t move from the patient to you…then everything else you learn here is almost useless,” David Mendelson, MD, (from a plenary session at RSNA). Image sharing gives physicians the benefit of information from historical exams, counteracts the growing cost of health care, reduces radiation exposure and expedites clinical care. It is important to remember, however, that interoperability is a journey, not a destination. It is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and effort.
Spotlight on 3D Printing
3D printing’s role in health care and its impact on radiology received attention in both educational sessions and at vendor booths this year. Vital Images, Inc, an advanced visualization software company, announced a partnership with 3D printing company Stratasys to develop the industry’s first print-on-demand service. Vitrea software converts patient scans to STL file for 3D printing; users are given the option to utilize an in-house printer or outsource the printing to the company.
It’s All About the Cloud
Cloud-based solutions were everywhere on the exhibit floor again this year, with vendors promoting their cloud-based services to attendees. The announcement that received the most attention concerned the GE Health Cloud, a scalable, secure cloud ecosystem to house health care–specific apps. GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey R Immelt described the Cloud during his “New Horizons” keynote speech; it will be offered on a subscription basis and will also host apps developed by independent software vendors.
The clear message of RSNA 2015 as articulated by Immelt was, “No matter where you are around the world of health care, if you’re looking for things to be stable or if you’re looking for things to be certain, you’re going to be waiting for a long time.” This is a message that resonates with Sg2—we look forward to continuing to help you navigate the rocky road ahead in imaging and health care as we head into 2016.