The field of teleradiology — in which radiologists view and interpret medical images in a geography that is separate from the scan location — has grown rapidly in recent years, with profound impacts on the medical industry. As in so many other cases, technology is able to connect specialized resources separated by geographic distance in pursuit of a common goal - patient diagnosis and treatment.
Today, imaging centers and modalities are sometimes located thousands of miles away from the radiologists who read and diagnose the images. These teleradiologists take many forms, from radiologists choosing to moonlight to generate extra income by doing reads remotely in their off-hours to members of organizations like Doctors Without Borders, where the demand for reads exceeds the supply of local radiologists in many developing nations or disaster impacted areas.
The growth in teleradiology has occurred simultaneously with the rise in cloud computing and storage technologies, especially when applied to the field of medicine. But what impact does the cloud have on the burgeoning teleradiology business?
It's important to note that teleradiology does not require the use of the cloud. Radiology centers are often multi-site with connected sets of technology enabling the sharing of studies across a computing platform set up specifically for that purpose. This type of technology architecture requires the imaging center to know with whom it will be working ahead of time when setting up the solution.
However, using the cloud for teleradiology allows imaging centers to bypass this static requirement. At any time, the center can find new radiologists, especially expert specialists in a particular domain needed for an ad hoc consultation. It can arrange with radiology practices to handle overflow only when the volume warrants it. Or, it can enable around the clock radiological reads for emergency patients in another part of the world. Establishing a relationship is then simply a matter of electronically connecting via the internet and providing the access credentials for the PACS medical imaging technology that allows the specialist to view and report on the given images.
In this way, the cloud adds flexibility to what was before a fixed set of resources, giving centers the ability to morph their radiology team by adding or subtracting members as need be.
As mentioned above, one major positive of using the cloud for teleradiology is that geographical and temporal restrictions no longer apply. Once a center identifies the right specialist to work with, it can almost instantly arrange for a read. Emergencies occurring at nighttime in one part of the world can be handled by radiologists in another part of the world without disrupting their sleep schedule.
In the world of radiology, getting an "overread," or a second opinion, is not an uncommon occurrence. Teleradiology centers often build this overread into the system as part of their quality control processes. A single image can easily be tagged for multiple levels of review using cloud-based PACS medical imaging solutions. Or patients can request second opinions to confirm their original physician's diagnosis.
Finding good doctors at a given location at a specific time is sometimes a difficult proposition. As such, improving the pool of potential professionals and enhancing the productivity and happiness of highly paid staff should always be paramount. The benefits of accessing top radiologists from all around the world and the convenience to access studies from anywhere at any time using the cloud, cannot be overstated enough.