A few years ago, our Chair of Informatics, Dr. Alex Towbin, introduced an upgrade to our imaging software that would allow the radiologists in our department to rapidly communicate with one another while reviewing patient images. I didn’t quite understand the purpose of this feature when he first relayed the news. In fact, I think my first response was something along the lines of, “That’s pretty ridiculous—we don’t need to be chatting while we are taking care of patients!”
But once the feature was introduced, it became apparent exactly how beneficial it would be. With a few clicks of the mouse, it became quite easy to consult another radiologist in our department for a second opinion. The primary radiologist could quickly see who was available to review a case and send them a link to the radiologic exam, along with a brief message. Their click on the link would open the study and facilitate a conversation about the patient’s imaging findings, perhaps in general or related to a specific question.
For example, one of our pediatric radiologists specializing in abdominal imaging might be interpreting an MRI of the abdomen. Such a scan might contain an unusual or unsuspected finding involving the spinal cord. Should the abdominal radiologist have a question about the spinal cord, he or she could quickly locate a pediatric neuroradiologist (i.e., one specializing in the interpretation of images of the central nervous system) from whom to obtain an opinion. After receiving the link and question, the neuroradiologist could review the images and quickly send a reply, all online. (The involved parties could also pick up the phone or walk to the other reading room to find that radiologist, if so desired.) This feature is particularly helpful for those radiologists viewing studies from one of our centers outside the main hospital (such as our Liberty or Kenwood locations). Also, such an exchange occurs without any additional charge to the patient or family.
The typical radiologist in our department will read dozens (perhaps over 100) patient studies in a day. In such a day, an individual radiologist may initiate a consult with this feature two or three times. They will also likely receive a similar number of requests for their own advice on a case sent from a colleague. Ultimately, this system enhances the ability of our radiologists to provide the best care available for our patients.
Contributed by Dr. Carl Merrow and edited by Janet Adams, (RDMS, RVT, CNMT, RT(N)).