Medical imaging is constantly evolving. Technological advancements help physicians detect cancerous tumors and monitor patient progress.

Ultrasound can be used to monitor fetal development, diagnose vascular problems, and guide needle biopsies. Molecular imaging agents like 68Ga-PSMA-11 allow doctors to detect and track prostate cancer.

AI is helping radiologists sift through scans and return critical insights with unprecedented speed. Workflow optimization tools are tackling root causes of inefficiency and capacity challenges.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a broad term that encompasses several technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. These cutting-edge systems enable computers to understand and automate tasks based on patterns they have observed in real-world situations.

These technologies have been used to identify patterns in a wide range of fields, from protein folding to cancer imaging. They can also help reduce costs, improve customer service, and accelerate innovation.

According to McKinsey, AI-powered technology has the potential to dramatically boost productivity, freeing humans from repetitive and low-value tasks that can be easily automated. This enables companies to focus on higher-value activities, and can lead to better decision-making, more efficient processes, and greater profitability.

One example of this is a software tool that uses deep learning to flag patients at high risk for sepsis, a life-threatening inflammatory response to infection. This can prevent hospitalizations and deaths by identifying patients before they develop symptoms, making it possible to administer antibiotics in time to stop the disease progression. It can also identify the underlying cause of the infection by scanning patients’ electronic health records, looking for clues like previous infections and inflammatory responses.

2. Cloud Computing

Medical imaging software platforms use the cloud for storing, sharing, and accessing data, freeing up space for more patient scans. This allows for more comprehensive, accurate diagnoses and better patient outcomes.

Physicians are increasingly relying on AI to help sift through large volumes of scans and return diagnostic insights, giving them more time to oversee treatments or work directly with patients. This enables them to catch disease in its early stages and improve patient outcomes.

Innovative technology such as 3D rendering, augmented reality, and virtual reality enable physicians to visualize complex anatomy. This helps them understand the cause of a patient’s symptoms and provides valuable support for pre-surgical planning.

Advanced technology such as MRI-CT and PET-CT scans can be merged to provide a single image of multiple aspects of a tumor or organ. This allows radiologists to focus on a specific area and save time when interpreting the images. Other innovative technologies such as balloon-expandable stents help surgeons perform procedures with greater precision and accuracy. Machine learning, the same technology used in facial recognition and self-driving cars, has exciting potential for healthcare. Companies such as Hexarad and Optirad are developing AI-powered workflow optimization software that automates tasks like image processing and quality control, allowing radiologists to focus on the more important parts of their jobs.

3. Teleradiology

Teleradiology is the practice of transmitting radiological images over a secure digital network to an offsite radiologist for review and interpretation. The image is converted to a digital format and sent via PACS and DICOM protocols to the specialist, who can then view and analyze the results in real-time or near-real-time, regardless of their location.

The benefits of teleradiology are numerous. For example, it expands the reach of specialized expertise to smaller hospitals in rural areas where such specialists are generally only located in large cities and work during daytime hours. It also allows for 24/7 specialist access, which is invaluable in emergency situations when rapid diagnosis is critical.

Teleradiology has now become an indispensable tool for healthcare professionals worldwide. It’s used by a wide range of institutions, from hospitals to primary care clinics and even organ procurement organizations. And it’s not just limited to larger healthcare facilities, a growing number of private practices now lean on the service as well. This is all thanks to the advances in imaging technology and telecommunications.

4. Real-Time Imaging

Few areas of modern medicine have witnessed the transformative power of technology as profoundly as medical imaging. Today, healthcare professionals use various imaging modalities—such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and positron emission tomography (PET)—to visualize internal structures, detect abnormalities, and monitor changes over time.

These technologies have been transformed by the digital revolution, empowering teleradiology to remotely interpret studies in real-time or long after a patient leaves the point of care. Moreover, image-enhanced software applications such as radiomics and artificial intelligence are helping doctors analyze medical images and make the right diagnostic decisions.

Other innovations are enhancing the diagnosis and treatment of disease, such as targeted radiopharmaceutical therapies, which deliver precise doses of radiation to malignancies while sparing healthy tissues. Additionally, the emergence of wearable medical devices—like the recent development of a portable and lightweight fMRI scanner that uses LEDs to scan a patient’s brain without the need for loud or cumbersome equipment—is bringing medical imaging into the field of personalized medicine.

5. Personalized Medicine

A medical practice based on a patient’s genetic and genomic information that can help to prevent, diagnose, treat, or monitor disease. Also known as precision medicine, personalized medicine aims to make health care more targeted and effective, by tailoring strategies to each patient’s specific genetic and genomic information. Using the AbbaDox RIS can benefit those who undergo radiology procedures.

Genotypes are a patient’s complete set of DNA instructions, written in varying combinations of only 4 different chemical letters (bases). NIH-funded basic research in the 1990s led to DNA sequencing becoming a household name, and the Human Genome Project sequenced more than three billion base pairs of genomes, giving scientists access to a vast database of genetic variants linked to diseases and conditions.

Physicians often use a trial-and-error approach to find treatments that work for their patients, but personalized medicine can improve treatment by targeting drugs and therapy to specific cellular targets. For example, a genetic variant found in women with HER2-positive breast cancer may increase the effectiveness of tamoxifen. This technology is already available through direct-to-consumer genomic testing, and more such tests are undergoing clinical trials.

6. Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is technology that enables computers and machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence or intervention. Digital assistants, GPS navigation systems and autonomous cars are examples of AI in our daily lives. In healthcare, AI is used to improve image analysis and interpretation, reduce retakes, streamline workflows and provide actionable insights.

Machine learning is a form of AI that uses algorithms modeled after the decision-making processes in the human brain to learn from data. These algorithms are based on neural networks that can process large amounts of data more quickly than humans and make complex predictions.

Recent innovations in GPU hardware have enabled AI models to run faster on more cores, enabling them to train on larger datasets and make faster decisions. This has helped drive the rapid advancements in AI over the past few years. However, it’s important to note that despite its name, AI is not yet achieving true general intelligence and is limited in what it can do. This is why many researchers and marketers prefer to label AI as augmented intelligence instead.

7. Electronic Health Records

As the healthcare industry moves to a more integrated network of hospitals and outpatient centers, patient images need to be able to move across the entire enterprise. This is where PACS and RIS come into play. These systems allow the radiologist to access images and other medical data from any location, while also adhering to HIPAA guidelines for secure storage and transmission of patient information.

Streamlined Workflows
The use of AI software can help radiologists automate routine tasks, freeing them up to spend more time with patients and focusing on complex cases. It can also improve diagnostic accuracy and streamline workflows.

Enhanced Imaging Modalities
Advanced technologies are improving image quality, allowing physicians to view the body at the cellular level. This can enable them to diagnose diseases at an earlier stage, resulting in better and more effective treatment. Additionally, molecular imaging enables doctors to monitor the progression of a disease and detect new tumors.

8. 3D Printing

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of creating three-dimensional physical models using layer-by-layer fabrication. It’s a modern technology that stems from the evolution of CAD software.

3D printed objects can be made out of various materials, including polymers, ceramics and metals. The most popular 3D printers use material extrusion techniques such as fused deposition modeling and selective laser sintering (SLS). The most cost-efficient method uses polymer thermoplastics, like ABS or PLA.

In 1981, Japan’s Hideo Kodama patented the first 3D printing machine, which leveraged UV light to cure photopolymers. However, his invention never gained significant interest. It wasn’t until 1984 that French inventors Alain Le Mehaute, Olivier de Witte and Jean Claude Andre filed for a similar patent. Three years later, American Charles ‘Chuck’ Hull invented the STL file and founded 3D Systems.

Today, top luxury brands use 3D printing for a variety of prototyping and production needs. In addition, 3D printing is used for surgical tools, anatomical models and personalized medical equipment. Doctors can also print patient-specific prosthetics and implants as well as bone replacements.

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