RSNA 2012 Overview: Solving the Scatter and Problems with Patient Data

This year’s RSNA meeting exhibited some exciting developments for those of us in the medical software development community. While there is some predictability in advancements due to the continued creep of computing technology, there are trends that medical device software companies and medical software architects should reflect upon.

Andrew Dallas is president and CTO of Full Spectrum Software

The meeting had particular emphasis on breast cancer detection utilizing new technologies intended to help reduce the incidence of false positive and false negative diagnoses. Challenges regarding the difficulty in imaging and thus in early diagnosis in women with dense breast tissue are being addressed.  For software engineers and companies developing diagnostic instruments, it is important to understand what tools are available to help accelerate the adoption of these new technologies.

Supporting better detection, a continuing trend is improvement of the quality of imaging software. Improvements comes from several areas  - new software algorithms for the removal of noise that is a product of scatter,  improvement of software tools available to practitioners in the form of fusion of imaging modalities and the integration of sonographic data as a new modality applied to breast cancer detection. While the value of sonography in breast cancer detection is making its way through research and into the main stream, it seems inevitable that it, along with other innovative imaging technologies will soon be included in the quiver of tools available to our healthcare providers. It is important, therefore to consider adoption of tools and toolkits as not only a cost effective means of commercializing software products but also as potential hedges against compatibility challenges. While commercial solutions exist, leveraging the enormous body of work available in VTK, ITK, IGSTK and others warrant consideration. If your team has chosen not to use these tools in the past, it is time to give them a good, hard look to consider how they have evolved in recent years.

Another movement that seems to be gaining momentum is networking of patient data. With the mandate from the Affordable Healthcare Act regarding electronic health records (EHR), there is pressure on the industry to standardize. Many of us lucky enough to have networked healthcare providers have experienced the benefit of EHR already. While the project was launched in 2009, RSNA’s pilot program, RSNA Image Share is now in clinical use. Patients are now able to access and share their data among several institutions. RSNA Image Share was implemented using defined standards and reportedly provides capabilities that satisfy patient confidentiality and security needs. The published standards and existing body of work are likely to encourage wider adoption and hopefully facilitate greater compatibility between vendors. Perhaps this is a major step forward after Google’s retirement of Google Health as there are reportedly two dozen facilities that are expected to join the program in the next year. Those of us who have built interfaces to Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health should take notice. Cloud computing solutions and sharing repositories are rapidly evolving and an ecosystem should precipitate from open standards. 

It was a pleasure attending RSNA this year. As much as it is an opportunity for me to meet with clients and make new connections, it is as much an opportunity to witness the growth of our industry in one behemoth of a convention. For software teams that don’t have the opportunity to directly observe the newest products and trends, I hope this article will encourage you to take a virtual tour of the RSNA exhibiters and the RSNA organization itself.

 —Andrew Dallas