The Future of Medical Imaging: 4 Meaningful Innovations for 2017
Improving access and precision, and decreasing costs along the care pathway.
What lies ahead for the future of medical imaging? In 2017, Carestream is pushing the boundaries of engineering innovation in radiology in four important areas:
- Accelerating processing speed
- Expanding the parameters of 3D and 4D
- Capturing images at the right place at the right time
- Automating workflow
Accelerating processing speed of diagnostic images
Processing speed is essential to creating high-quality diagnostic images. That’s why we are constantly improving the way we reconstruct volumetric data across our entire portfolio of products. For example, we are incorporating graphical processing units (GPUs) like those used in gaming software to provide more and faster processing power where it’s needed. GPUs can quickly compute functions and algorithms, reconstructing images in less than six minutes.
In contrast, CPUs can take 20 to 30 minutes to render the same image. Faster processing not only creates better images; it speeds up workflow. And when imaging centers can increase throughput, they get a faster return on their investment.
Our advanced imaging science also shapes our DRX Detectors. We’re excited about continuing to push faster frame rates for our detectors.
Expanding the parameters of 3D and 4D
The application of 3D and 4D technologies have the potential to create better images for improved diagnostics in radiology.
For example, the software in our OnSight 3D Extremity System increases the contrast of soft tissue, and reduces the visibility of metal artifacts compared to traditional CT images. These improvements enable sharp 3D reconstructions. The images are markedly improved over 2D imaging and earned the product the Aunt Minnie Award for Best New Radiology Device in 2016.
Now we’re researching additional technologies to clean up more scatter and correct for patient motion. We are also exploring possibilities for our cone-beam CT to generate 3D images in other areas of the body, not just extremities.
Another hot development in the future of medical imaging is 3D modeling – putting physical models in the hands of physicians and surgeons. Healthcare providers can create 3D anatomical models from STL files in our Clinical Collaboration Platform. Imagine the insights that a surgeon can gain from seeing and touching a 3D visualization of a pathology or organ prior to surgery.
We’re also pushing boundaries to enable the next dimension in radiology: 4D. Advances in ultrasound in particular lay the groundwork for 4D imaging. These include matrix array technology that allows the capture of a full volume set, and the turbo processing power of GPUs that power fast frame rates.
Capturing images at the right place at the right time
Diagnostic images captured at the right place and at the right time give physicians, surgeons, and care centers an important tool to help provide better patient care and at less cost. For this reason, Carestream has been building out our solutions for point-of-care and critical care, in addition to supporting our traditional systems and rooms for radiology departments.
At RSNA16, we showed our DRX-Revolution Nano Mobile X-ray System (INVESTIGATIONAL-Not available for commercial sale). The non-motorized system will be easier to transport and position in cramped critical care areas.
Even 3D imaging is getting more flexible. Orthopaedic and sports medicine offices can capture on-the-spot 3D weight-bearing images in their offices. This gives orthopaedic practices an opportunity to increase revenue. According to the AAOS guide, Enhancing Your
Practice’s Revenue: Pearls and Pitfalls (A Primer for Orthopaedic Surgeons,) “in-house imaging provides an ancillary revenue stream, improves practice efficiency, and may play a role in overall patient satisfaction.”
Now we’re pushing the boundaries of cone beam further in the future of medical imaging, potentially bringing CBCT of the head and brain to the bedside. John Hopkins University is collaborating with us, exploring CBCT imaging of acute intracranial hemorrhage (ICH).
A point-of-care imaging system could help reduce risks associated with transporting patients from an intensive care or neurosciences critical care unit to the CT scanner suite. It could also offer high-quality imaging in the operating room.
Point-of–care-imaging is a priority for us because it enables a better patient experience and supports better patient care.
Automating workflow to help reduce acquisition scan time
Baby boomers are aging, driving up the demand for healthcare including medical imaging. Yet staff levels at many facilities are remaining flat. Automation can help imaging staff keep pace with the exploding demand, and reduce the potential for operator error.
Automation is especially important for procedures in cardio and ob-gyn that are measurement intensive. Take ultrasound for example. The quality of study relies heavily on the operator. With conventional Doppler imaging of blood flow, the proper angle correction takes time, slowing down workflow. In contrast, measurements taken with Smart Flow imaging technology are angle independent and reduce the number of key strokes required.
Automation also can lessen the burden on orthopaedic and sports medicine doctors. Currently, they need to execute as many as five or six clicks to calculate patella alignment. We’re exploring technologies that will automate some of the calculations and reduce the number of keystrokes required.
Better images across the patient care pathway to help improve diagnostics
I hope you found this glimpse into the future of medical imaging at Carestream informative. As a company, we are laser focused on applying our superior technology to help you improve access and precision, and decrease costs along the care pathway.
Jianqing Bennett is President, Digital Medical Solutions for Carestream Health. She leads the global business comprised of healthcare information solutions and X-ray & ultrasound imaging systems, and has responsibility for research and development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and service.