Friday, November 30, 2012

RSNA 2012: It's all about the patient

There are two types of people who participate in the annual pilgrimage by visiting the RSNA trade show in Chicago:  the people who love it and thrive on the adrenaline and activities, and those who hate it. I belong to the first group, as it is exciting to see new products and gadgets, and to listen to the different languages around me while trying to figure their nationality. It is also a good venue to poll trends, get an idea of who is working where, and who moved, which new upstart companies are up and coming, who is acquired, and, last but not least, where is this industry going.

My perception was that there are still significant investments being made in healthcare, however, it is definitely shifting from buying devices and even PACS systems to building and expanding IT and infrastructure. For example, I heard many users complaining that “PACS systems have been commoditized” and vendors are not making any significant investments in this technology anymore. In addition, users have started weighing the benefits of buying yet another more powerful, bigger device, not only in terms of the bottom line, but also, and even more importantly, in terms of patient care.
Interestingly enough, the theme of this year’s event was all about the patient. 

However, as several speakers expressed, imaging, especially radiology, has been more removed than ever, not only from the patient, but also from the physician. One of the advantages of a PACS system that I heard often expressed is that the radiologist would not be “bothered” anymore by incoming calls, by technologists asking for advice or to consult, as images and results are readily available on-line. This had an unexpected negative effect of radiologists becoming isolated in a cubicle instead of talking with colleagues. This might not be a good development.

In a nutshell, what I learned is that healthcare imaging and IT are still good businesses, but the emphasis is shifting from imaging to IT. In addition, practitioners seem to forget the human interaction as it is easy to just stay behind your computer screen and hidden in your office. It is important to remember that emails and texting is no substitute for human interaction, which is still a critical part of healthcare.