As I strolled the giant exhibition halls of McCormick Place at this year's RSNA 2011, it felt less busy. There didn’t seem to be any "buzz," there were no new gadgets or applications generating the interest and excitement of years past. When I asked others about this, there was no clear consensus as to why this should be, but a number of people suggested that the requirement to implement “meaningful use” of Electronic Medical Records has taken up a lot of energy, and investment. It will be interesting to find out at the upcoming HIMSS meeting this spring in Vegas whether this is true or not.
I also found the scientific exhibits disappointing; here is where you can get a peek into what is happening in the research laboratories. The most fascinating demonstration this year was the use of manual gestures through standard gaming technology to operate a radiology workstation.
Another interesting development is the use of Kiosks for allowing patients to enter their personal information into their electronic medical record electronically, instead of having them fill out pages of forms, consents, HIPAA statements and other paperwork, which seems to be necessary every time one makes a physician appointment.
Decision support for order entry, which checks appropriateness of specific orders against a specific complaint, also seems to be taking off. Exchanging images in an “ad-hoc” manner through subscription services also seems to be growing exponentially to address the need for images to be shared within an institution and between physicians. Images are typically uploaded onto a “cloud” server and are than shared with those physicians who are authorized to do so. Display technology is also improving rapidly, with better of-axis viewing, offering the capability to follow fast changes such as displaying slices that are generated by the new tomographically generated digital mammography systems in a CINE mode. One of the vendors was able to increase the output of its monitor to such a degree that it became a virtual light box and allowed the comparison display of a film on one display with the digital image on the other.
Of course, the term “meaningful use” was on almost every booth promising a to help conference attendees tap into the US federal incentive programs. And finally, dose reporting also seemed to be on the top of every list, especially for CT vendors. There was a very well done demonstration about the IHE organization on how to do this according to the new standards using DICOM structured reporting. As with many new standard extensions, however, the industry always seems to lag a few years behind, so that in many cases, one still needs to rely on burned-in text that is captured as a DICOM image, which requires screen scraping to get it in an electronic format.
So, in conclusion, I found RSNA 2011 to be a subdued conference, quiet, not many new things, just another year in Chicago. The good news was that the weather was perfect, I have memories of previous years when I could not get home because of snow and ice, but the weather cooperated very well. This allowed many to visit the company receptions and dinners in the evening and stroll back to the hotel leisurely without having to take a taxi.