Well, the dust has settled on yet another Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting and exhibits. Everyone has their opinion on what was the key buzz from the show, and mine is focused on enterprise imaging. In what was one of the mildest weather seasons, the show was anything by mild! Here is my take on some of the “hot” buttons from RSNA 2015.
Streaming technology is the wave of the future: The last several years have seen the growth of the so-called “zero footprint viewer” as a means of image accessibility in a mobile environment. Now similar technology is gaining popularity for mainstream diagnostic interpretation. Visage Imaging (http://www.visageimaging.com/) has long been the champion of streaming technology for diagnostic purposes. Visage continues to gain market on the basis of the “deconstruction” of PACS (Picture Archive and Communications Systems). The argument goes that you don’t have to throw away the entire PACS, or you don’t have to acquire everything from a single vendor. For example, if one implements a VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive), the addition of a server-sided rendering solution such as Visage can augment the need to acquire a complete PACS solution.
Now other companies are adopting similar technology. Viztek (http://www.visageimaging.com/), now a part of Konica Minolta (http://www.konicaminolta.com/healthcare/) has adopted similar technology, as has Fujifilm Medical Systems (http://www.fujifilm.com/products/medical/). Fujifilm is perhaps the most interesting, as it has long been a mainstream PACS vendor employing unique technology as part of their Synapse product line to enhance the performance of image access.
This wave of technology is reminiscent of what has happened in the video entertainment industry. How many people bother with renting or purchasing DVD’s in an age of Amazon Fire TV or Roku? Anyone remember Blockbuster Video?! The convenience of having thousands of alternatives at one’s fingertips, versus the hassle of securing a singular DVD has revolutionized entertainment. The same may likely be the case for digital image access and interpretation through streaming technology.
Image Sharing is changing the way we access images: A couple big-name entrants in the image sharing field continue to evolve how we access images. LifeIMAGE (http://www.lifeimage.com/) and Nuance (http://www.nuance.com/products/powershare-medical-image-sharing/index.htm) continue to provide alternatives to transferring images via CD, but they are also expanding into new applications, such as LifeIMAGE’s portal capability to enhance image access. From personal experience, I wish this technology had been widespread several years ago when I was out of town and needed access to my images for a medical condition.
The competition is heating up as just about every PACS vendor is moving to offer similar capabilities. The days of handling image studies on CD’s are numbered, and eliminate one of the key issues – that of CD compatibility and difficulties with accessing images on the CD and having consistent viewing. Despite greater emphasis on this technology, it still is not apparent that ARRA/MU Stage 3 is a key driver. Stage 3 includes more emphasis on patient accessibility, including image, and ultimately vendors will need to place more emphasis on image accessibility by the patient.
Cloudy is a good forecast! The use of the cloud for healthcare applications continues to grow. Besides image management applications, the hottest area of activity seems to be business analytics. Siemens (http://usa.healthcare.siemens.com/medical-imaging-it/teamplay) continues to expand its TeamPlay application, with emphasis on the ability of clients to anonymize their data into the cloud and do benchmarking. Dell (http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/70/healthcare) has partnered with Zebra Medical Vision (https://www.zebra-med.com/) to deliver business analytics in the cloud, with an emphasis on Population Health Management applications. GE (http://www3.gehealthcare.com/en) placed heavy emphasis on their Health Cloud applications that piggyback on GE’s Predix industrial cloud network, emphasizing the ability to provide customized analytics to address specific customer questions.
It’s becoming more about the Enterprise: While still a radiology meeting, many vendors touted the extension of their PACS offerings to address a broader base of imaging applications across the enterprise. Philips (http://www.healthcare.philips.com/main/) highlighted its digital pathology capability, including an innovative slide digitizer, while Agfa Healthcare (http://agfahealthcare.com/global/en/main/landing/index.jsp) emphasized its Enterprise Imaging core platform for managing images across the enterprise. The world is finally awakening to the many needs of imaging across the enterprise.
It’s elementary my dear Watson: One of the more controversial aspects of the meeting was speculation on IBM’s acquisition of Merge Healthcare (http://www.merge.com/), and its emphasis on IBM’s Watson technology. Some speculate that IBM’s intent is to enable Watson to replace the radiologist for primary diagnosis. It may take years to accomplish, but subscribers point to the predictive capabilities and consistency that Watson could bring to diagnosis. On the other hand, expecting that a singular computational technology could displace an entire discipline may be a stretch. The likelihood is that the technology can evolve into a valuable diagnostic aid, just as other “CAD” technologies have assisted with mammography and lung screening. Only time will tell how pervasive Watson will become.
RSNA and the meeting landscape: All-in-all, RSNA 2015 shows progress. Attendance concerns have raised speculation that perhaps the RSNA will need to focus more on image acquisition and analysis, and that the Information Technology portion may be better served by the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society - http://www.himss.org/) meeting. It seems many of the RSNA exhibitors feel the need to exhibit at HIMSS as well, so perhaps there will be some consolidation in the future.
Next year will be my 40th consecutive RSNA. I’m already anxious to see what it will bring.