Last week I received an email from Dr. Robert Falk of 3DR Laboratories (http://www.3drinc.com/ ), and I had the pleasure to speak with him this week. For those of you not familiar with 3DR, the company represents a new way to look at 3D image processing, namely an outsourced model.
Advanced Visualization was one of the hot topics in my RSNA summary blog late last year, and is an area experiencing a lot of technological change. Previously the industry was characterized by dedicated 3D workstations that frequently were the basis for a 3D “lab” where dedicated staff did the “heavy lifting” in terms of 3D processing, outputting results that were then reviewed by diagnosticians and clinical staff. These labs represented a hefty investment in equipment and staff, and emphasized high-powered workstations where the processing was done. PACS vendors either offered links to these software packages, or their own 3D processing applications. Alternatively, diagnosticians might turn to these packages and do the processing themselves – oftentimes a tedious and unproductive use of their time.
The industry is trending away from these dedicated applications toward a new model of client-server setups that rely on processing-intensive servers and thin client viewing applications to enable more widespread access to 3D processing. As discussed in my RSNA summary, Siemens has added an additional twist to the application by automating the workflow aspect of 3D processing (see syngo Via - http://www.medical.siemens.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/PressReleaseView~q_catalogId~e_-1~a_catTree~e_100005,13839~a_langId~e_-1~a_pageId~e_127304~a_storeId~e_10001.htm ). At the ACC10, Siemens had a separate exhibit area where cardiologists could experience the application firsthand and appreciate the workflow automation of the application for CCTA cardiac calcium scoring.
The advent of these new technologies, along with the prospect of outsourcing the service such as through 3DR has led me to conclude that imaging is on the verge of a sea change in terms of the way that complex cross-sectional imaging is interpreted. As data sets get larger and larger, the ability of diagnosticians to interpret them becomes more daunting and time consuming. The advent of such tools that simplify the workflow for the diagnostician and clinician alike could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of more productive ways of assessing image data sets.
I like the notion of outsourced services, as it could bring such capabilities to smaller facilities and make them more competitive in a cost effective manner. Larger facilities looking to update their technology on limited capital budgets may also find these services useful.
The bottom line? IT management needs to get up to speed on Advanced Visualization, as it could have impact on image management and communications requirements.