Medical imaging innovations transforming radiology and healthcare

Radiology and medical imaging are being transformed by new, more client-centered and mobile approaches and technologies as healthcare moves outside the hospital.

Rasu Shrestha, M.D., chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, talked with SearchHealthIT at RSNA 2016, the annual Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, about medical imaging innovations, wearable health technology and the consumerization of healthcare. Shrestha, a radiologist by training, is also executive vice president of UPMC Enterprises, the health system's venture capital arm. This is part one of a two-part Q&A. In the second part, Shrestha discusses care transformation, UPMC's health IT investments and remote patient monitoring.

How are medical imaging innovations in radiology and other disciplines part of the overall transformation of healthcare?

Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer, University of Pittsburgh Medical CenterRasu Shrestha

Rasu Shrestha: Innovation is critical to the future of healthcare. Radiology has a rich history of leading innovations in medical imaging and healthcare in general. I think it's really critical for us to continue to lead that charge because imaging is so critical to the entire fabric of care transformation, not only at the diagnostic end when you come in with a suspected lesion or nodule on the left lower lobe of your lung because you've been coughing for a week. It's integral to everything, whether you come in with a headache or some level of psychosis, or you've had trauma, imaging is the bread and butter of everything, not just radiology, but also the other 'ologies.' Increasingly in the area of genomics, for example, multimedia becomes a larger ethos of what we need.

How important is mobile in imaging, and how can mobility benefit patients and clinicians?

Shrestha: I think it's really important for us to not do mobile only for the sake of doing mobile. Mhealth really is an extension of healthcare in general. In many ways, they're blending into one in terms of how we're approaching healthcare transformation. In radiology, and imaging in particular, mobile becomes an opportunity for us to really step out of the comfort zone of what we've known as our care delivery area, which is our reading room and workstation. How do we make sure that through the power of mobility we're able to collaborate and communicate by ordering clinicians and oncologists and services and [linking] them with nurses and technologists and studies as we're getting patients ready, and as we're continuing to engage in dialogue with them after we've actually sent out the report? How do we engage and communicate with patients before they come in for studies, as they're actually investigating whether they need a contrast-enhanced MRI or not? How do we engage with patients after they've left the hospital?

How does wearable technology fit into the consumerization of healthcare, and how does imaging play into wearables? Also, how will traditional healthcare systems, including yours, adapt to the consumerization of health?

It's not just about getting better or curing illness, but it really becomes about wellness and incentivizing healthy behavior.
Rasu Shrestha, M.D.UPMC chief innovation officer

Shrestha: What we've traditionally known, whether it's in imaging or healthcare in general, as healthcare delivery has traditionally been within the bricks and mortar hospital. So it's the imaging center, the emergency department, the trauma care center or the hospital in general. We believe at UPMC, as we're looking forward in the next several years, that healthcare is going to move away from bricks and mortar hospitals into patients' homes, into their smartphones and pockets, into their wearables, and into their sensors and other devices. Healthcare has really been about sick care. What we need to do is transform that into really caring for what is most important to that person who's at the other end of that electronic medical record or the other end of the physician.

How that all fits together is that as patients and consumers are getting more and more engaged and empowered, as they're online and connective and they have wearables and smartphones. It's critical for us in healthcare to really capitalize on that. How do we make sure that healthcare doesn't become this episodic thing where patients go in 20 minutes a year for their annual physical and that's all they know about healthcare? Healthcare really becomes this blanket that envelopes the patient and consumer 24/7. It's not just about getting better or curing illness, but it really becomes about wellness and incentivizing healthy behavior.

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