Monday, April 18, 2016

Deep learning and big data in medical imaging: buzzwords and hype? Maybe better focus on workflow and integration.

It is hard to keep up with the latest technologies, let alone, all the new buzzwords or hype introduced by smart marketers to differentiate their products. I believe that it is better to call a product by its name based on what it does. Take “deep learning,” for example, isn’t “deep learning” just another form of neural networks, which is how Wikipedia classifies it, i.e. after a four-paragraph description, it says “Deep learning has been characterized as a buzzword, or a rebranding of neural networks.

If you follow this quote it leads to another interesting statement from IEEE Fellow Michael I. Jordan, Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley:
“The overeager adoption of big data is likely to result in catastrophes of analysis comparable to a national epidemic of collapsing bridges. Hardware designers creating chips based on the human brain are engaged in a faith-based undertaking likely to prove a fool’s errand. Despite recent claims to the contrary, we are no further along with computer vision than we were with physics when Isaac Newton sat under his apple tree.”

After reading these quotes from people who are much smarter than me, I am reminded that maybe we should not get carried away by these new terms and buzzwords and instead stick to what we know and what feels right. If a new development feels like it is hype, it very likely is.

Instead of pursuing a fool’s errand, maybe we should fix what is broken, which is focusing on improving our workflow and integrating our current systems in a better manner. Implementing a VNA, deconstructed PACS, deep learning, applying big data solutions will only make the situation worse if you don’t optimize your current system first.

As an illustration, during our recent webcast on enterprise imaging, we had a poll asking the attendees for the top healthcare imaging and IT priority in their institution, and the top two issues were workflow and integration. These issues are not new as they have come up during past conferences multiple times but they still do not seem to be sufficiently resolved and addressed after all these years.

As a matter of fact, talking with other industry consultants, we seem to agree that more than 50 percent of the current healthcare imaging and IT systems could definitely use a “tune-up.” Think about a V6 in a car running only on four cylinders.  There are plenty of consultants that are busy with HIPAA audits, which is absolutely necessary, but a workflow and integration audit could be much more important.

I agree, doing a comprehensive audit of your current system is not as sexy as implementing the latest and greatest buzzword, but it can result in significant savings and efficiency and more effective patient care. Using “lessons learned” will provide a better ROI than applying “deep learning.” Remember this when next year’s buzzword is being introduced as well.