Remote radiography, or Teleradiology, has grown tremendously within many radiology practices and hospitals throughout the US. While Teleradiology has been around for over 60 years but it was not until the early 1990s that Teleradiology became an accepted part of radiology practice. In fact, Teleradiology was first used as far back as 1959 with Albert Jutras first point-to-point communication, followed in 1963 by Dr. William C. Shiel at Johns Hopkins University, who also developed a system to transmit x-ray films from one hospital to another via telephone lines.
Driven by technological advances in hardware, software, and network connectivity, the Teleradiology market continues to gain popularity. According to Grand View Research data, the Teleradiology market is expected to grow at a rate of 13.9% (CAGR) to $10.9 Billion USD by 2027.
What are the Advantages of Teleradiology
Teleradiology offers several advantages over traditional radiology interpretation. The most obvious include cost savings, improved patient outcomes, increased efficiency, and better quality control. However, our experience reveals a wider impact that Teleradiology is having for healthcare providers in areas such as risk mitigation and peer learning. Here are 7 key benefits to consider when assessing the potential value of Teleradiology services:
Teleradiology Benefit #1: Faster Diagnostics
Teleradiology offers almost immediate viewing of medical imaging results. More and more hospitals are looking to improve the efficiency of their operations to enable diagnostic imaging to move at the speed of the emergency room. Using remote facilities, Radiologists can essentially telecommute and work in multiple time zones around the clock so medical facilities can deliver faster diagnostic services.
Teleradiology Benefit #2: Improved Quality and Patient Outcomes
Teleradiology clearly enables physicians and hospitals to deliver better care by allowing them to diagnose and treat a patient quicker and more efficiently. Remote radiology services also empower radiologists and physicians to quickly collaborate and determine the best treatment methods for their patients. Subspecialist radiologists who are not on-site and may be in another time zone can easily provide a second opinion without the need to transfer the patient.
Teleradiology Benefit #3: Lower Costs
Since Teleradiology eliminates the need for Radiologists to travel to the site where the patient images were captured, Radiologists can work from practically any remote location. In addition to less travel time, there are cost savings associated with not having to employ a full-time, in-house radiologist. For hospitals that need to provide diagnostic imaging across a broad range of radiology specialty areas, Teleradiology allows reads to be completed by specialists who operate seamlessly as an extension of the core radiology team. In the case of smaller clinics and hospitals, their caseloads may not warrant the hiring of full-time Radiologists.
Teleradiology Benefit #4: Less Radiologist Staffing Challenges
Many hospitals and medical practices experience shortfalls in their radiology staff during holiday and night shifts. But bigger challenges are on the horizon for radiology. America’s shortage of radiologists and other physician specialists could surpass 35,000 by 2034, according to a 2021 research study published by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Within the US healthcare system, a number of factors are converging, including an increasing demand for imaging studies and COVID-related burnout, which is exacerbating a global shortage of radiologists. An aging population increased Medicare enrollment, and too few radiology trainees amount to a triple threat, according to Vahid Yaghmai, MD. In an interview with the RSNA News, Dr. Yaghmai stated, “The demand for imaging is outpacing what we’re doing on the training side,” said Dr. Yaghmai, professor and chair of radiological sciences at the University of California, Irvine. “The number of radiologists in the workforce is not growing as fast as the population and the demand for imaging.” According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years of age will be 22% by 2050, nearly double that of 2015. And imaging services for this older population will put a major strain on the radiology profession.
Teleradiology Benefit #5: Improved Patient Care in Remote and Rural-Areas
Rural hospitals can easily send their patient X-ray images to teleradiologists for immediate analysis and diagnosis. There are even more benefits when Teleradiology are strategically deployed to enable rural medical practices and hospitals to integrate and expand their networks with other medical facilities and hospitals. This delivers a higher standard of patient care while holding the line on costs associated with staffing, facilities, and technology.
Teleradiology Benefit #6: Faster Response to Critical IT Events & Medical Emergencies
While Teleradiology allows healthcare providers to deliver service levels more flexibly to patients for the expected regular coverage requirements of weekends, holidays and vacations, and after-hours services, it also provides for risk mitigation when unexpected events happen. Teleradiology services can provide critical on-demand capacity in the event of an emergency situation where the need for critical radiology diagnostics spikes. Teleradiology services also provide a valuable backup and recovery plan in the event of a system failure. We recently helped a hospital client maintain their radiology operations when their internal PACS system images became inaccessible due to a software upgrade. Another system failure that we assisted with was the result of a ransomware attack. These are becoming more important considerations in looking at the bigger picture when assessing risk and liability within a healthcare organization.
Teleradiology Benefit #7: Peer Learning Educational Opportunities
Peer Learning gives physicians and radiologists the ability to learn and expand their abilities within the field. Teleradiology allows to expand the scope of Peer Learning beyond the walls of the enterprise. The technology can be particularly helpful as an educational device through presentations from clinical radiologists or other knowledgeable health care experts in the field. For radiology departments striving to improve patient safety, transitioning from a peer review to a peer learning model with the enabling technologies and systems, Teleradiology also provides new avenues that use errors to create opportunities to learn best practices instead of focusing on just identifying and tracking errors. This approach better taps into key principles of human performance and the importance of individual and organizational improvement, facilitating a culture of safety.
Have you implemented Teleradiology services in your radiology practice? What benefits are you seeing? We would be interested to hear your feedback and comments. If you are looking to realize the benefits of Teleradiology, contact email@example.com for our Teleradiology Planning Guide.
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CEO and Co-Founder
A 25 year veteran of the Canadian healthcare and IT markets, primarily in the area of radiology and healthcare systems solutions