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Images, Everywhere

October 25, 2011
by Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief
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Fortunately, for IT-Averse Doctors, Imaging Informatics Innovators are Keeping MDs in Mind
Mark Hagland
Mark Hagland

In the April 2010 edition of this column, I wrote about my college friend “Linda” (not her real name), who, out of a desire never to end up as a secretary, made a childhood vow with her several sisters not to learn to type, believing that avoiding typing class would save her from a lifetime clerical fate. Of course, numerous developments in the larger world have forever altered the landscape against which Linda made her youthful vow. Indeed, 40 years later, keyboarding has become an essential skill for practically everyone, as typing has become fundamental to the use of computers of all kinds, and the use of computers has become a core part of living in the modern world.

To add to the irony of it all, Linda, a liberal arts professor, has even been forced in the past few years to teach a couple of online courses to undergraduates (an experience she found highly distressing). Perhaps not surprisingly, Linda has come to strongly resent technology; she refuses to buy or use a cell phone, uses computers only as absolutely necessary at work, and is virulently opposed to social media such as Facebook. She regularly expresses nostalgia for the pre-Internet era, and proudly describes herself as a Luddite who wants society to go back in time to a less technologically infused world.

Of course, sadly for Linda, the world is not moving in reverse-technologically or in any other way. And while most of the readers of this magazine will probably find Linda to be a rather curious person, they should always keep in mind that many physicians-who use medical technology as a matter of course in their work-lives-remain rather “Linda-like” in their hesitancy to engage with information technology as part of their daily workflow.

Happily, many of the innovations being moved forward in the imaging informatics space are being aimed directly at not only improving care quality, but also at making the lives of physicians-whether ordering physicians, radiologists, or consulting physicians-easier. For example, at Denver Health, CTO Jeffrey Pelot has been helping to lead an impressive initiative that is speeding and greatly improving the series of processes around potential patient transfers to that trauma center, and saving precious minutes for clinicians and patients, as well as in many cases averting unnecessary re-radiation of patients.

Meanwhile, at other patient care organizations, such as Cooper Health System in Camden, N.J., leaders are moving forward to implement cardiovascular image management. And at the 20-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) health system, Dr. Rasu Shrestha has been helping to lead the implementation of a federated viewing platform that is bringing needed images to physicians at the point of care and study across a vast, complex integrated health system. The challenges in moving forward in imaging informatics, not only technologically, but also in terms of working with care delivery processes, are, of course, manifold and complex.

All of these initiatives, and more, are described in my cover story in this issue. What's fascinating to me is how diverse the various approaches to imaging informatics innovation have been and continue to be. What's more, it's been heartening to learn how intent healthcare IT leaders have been, and continue to be, in their emphasis on making things work for physicians in their daily work-lives. Technology-driven change is always challenging for end-users; but it's good to know that leaders in the field are keeping in mind the many “Lindas” out there as they move forward to improve care delivery processes for everyone.

Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief Healthcare Informatics 2011 November;28(11):06

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