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Telemedicine’s favorite son, Teleradiology

Posted Sep 07 2010 11:30am

With the help of tele-radiology, patients can now avail services of a radiologist without being physically present in the same room with them. There is a great need for professionals who can analyze patient repots, such as MRIs, X-rays, or CT scans, in a short duration so that patients do not have to wait for days to get the results. Tele-radiology offers a cheaper and faster solution so that these reports can be scanned and sent to be analyzed using the Internet or video conferencing.

Use Of Tele-Radiology Services

With the advances in imaging techniques, there is a need for specialists in the areas of Pediatric radiology, Musculoskeletal radiology, Neuroradiology, and other areas to provide accurate diagnosis. These specialists may not be available on site in case of emergency. Due to the scarcity of specialists, those working in emergency departments are often overworked and on call seven days of the week. Thus tele-radiology is a welcome change, with the option of online consulting becoming a permanent option in hospitals.

How It Works?

The main advantages of tele-radiology services are to provide a report within a quick turnaround time. The reports are scanned and sent to a tele-radiology service for consultation. This is helpful for emergency room, where immediate treatment has to be provided. A follow-up phone call with the specialist can provide a complete diagnosis. The reports are then stored for a couple of years if needed by the physician for later use.

Limitations Of Tele-Radiology

Although there have been much advancement in technology and imaging techniques, there are still some limitations that tele-radiology services have to overcome. The main hurdle is the inability to fully integrate this system in all hospital systems. Also, although the emergency reports can be sent to an offsite radiologist, it is difficult for them to access the system for earlier reports due to firewall and security issues. Thus it becomes difficult for radiologists to interpret the case if the need arises.

Furthermore, it is difficult to share reports and patient records between different institutions and radiologists. Thus communication becomes a long-drawn-out cumbersome process where any details required by radiologists must be scanned and faxed repeatedly. More personnel may be required to be hired by hospitals to manage the communication between the hospital where the treatment occurs and the offsite tele-radiologist.

There are a few risks also associated with tele-radiology services. In case the information provided is not adequate, it may lead to an incomplete interpretation and thus impact the treatment of the medical condition. Also, it becomes challenging for hospitals to verify the credentials of the staff hired by the tele-radiology services. There must be a system to periodically perform background checks and interview the offsite radiologists, thus incurring extra expenditure for the hospitals.

Overall, tele-radiology has a potential to provide dedicated high quality service and improve medical care at a reduced cost. This change is being adopted in most health care systems, with professionals realizing the scope and expertise that tele-radiology can offer.

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