Posted on February 2, 2015 by Bobby Gheorghiu
From system efficiencies, to enhanced care, the shift from film-based medical images to digital ones has been an unqualified success across the country with significant benefits realized for radiologists, patients and the health system overall.
Two surveys by the DI Jurisdictional Implementers Group Benefits Assessment Working Group conducted earlier this year, one targeted at radiologists, the other at referring physicians, attempted to capture users’ perceptions regarding the usability and benefits of digital imaging repositories (DI-rs). Findings were based on responses from 69 radiologists and 120 referring physicians, most of whom were located in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
While the use of DI-rs is still maturing – 64% of radiologists and 20% of referring physicians use it more than 10 times a week; the value proposition for all users is already remarkable. More than two-thirds (68%) of radiologists and 62% of referring physicians feel that use of the DI-r has reduced the number of duplicate studies ordered at an average of four to six avoided studies per week, and more than three-quarters (77%) of both radiologists and referring physicians feel that use of the DI-r has improved time for decision making to facilitate patient treatment by about one hour a week. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, 85% of radiologists and 82% of referring physicians felt that DI-rs improved the quality of care that they are able to provide!
Currently, about 99% of hospitals across Canada use digital images in the form of Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) in their radiology departments. According to an Infoway-funded pan-Canadian study conducted in 2008, this proliferation has yielded aggregate benefits in excess of $5B since 2007, largely driven by improvements in radiologists’ productivity and the elimination of film and related materials. However, that is just part of the story.
One of the big benefits of digitization is the ability to share images between facilities and health care providers regardless of physical location and in many jurisdictions this is now accomplished through the use of a diagnostic imaging repository or DI-r. These large databases allow clinicians to access a patient’s diagnostic imaging history regardless of where those images were originally taken within a geographical region, province or territory.
There is still much work to be done to fully understand the benefits of DI-rs to physicians, patients and their families, as well as the health system as a whole. However, it is a promising start and a window into the potential of this technology as these systems and their use matures.
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Bobby is a Benefits Realization Leader with Canada Health Infoway where he works with diverse stakeholders to demonstrate the benefits of digital health. He holds an MHSc in Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation from the University of Toronto.