Innovation culture

Teleassistance in radiology 

How to tackle staff shortages and manage increasingly complex diagnostics.

Nadine Meru
Published on April 18, 2023

Radiology is facing new challenges, including a shortage of specialists. Large hospitals in the United States are dealing with this situation by using a remote network access solution that brings relief to both staff and patients. 

<p>The aging of the world’s population is the result of an ongoing decline in fertility rates paired with increased life expectancy. This demographic change means there are more people over the age of 60 [1], resulting in an overburdening of healthcare systems as this population group also tends to need greater medical care. The increasing demand and the complexity of different indications stretches medical radiology technologists to their limits. A new working method provides relief for the clinical team and offers new job opportunities.</p>
<p>AdventHealth is one of the hospitals worldwide affected by what the media has dubbed “The Great Resignation.” Advanced and complicated MRI scans are conducted on their main campus in Orlando, USA, where the experienced technologists are based. This setup developed historically when only the main hospital existed, and the medical technologists were trained conventionally. Things have changed over the last few years, as AdventHealth has been growing and has &nbsp;established outpatient departments with diagnostic care across the state of Florida. Melissa Petrasko, Vice President of Imaging Services, Central Florida Division at AdventHealth explains: “We came up against barriers as advanced cases could not be performed in smaller campuses. The staff cannot be trained up there because the volume of those campuses was so low that maintaining competency was a criterion for us.”&nbsp;<br><br>An experienced technologist, William Lee, MRI Virtual Specialist at AdventHealth, adds: “Our radiologists could often not perform procedures like cardiac MRI at small sites, as the on-site technologists weren’t comfortable with these complex exams. Because they would see maybe one a month, if that. I see like three or four a week.”</p>
With AdventHealth’s previous setup, patients had to be transported from their small community hospitals to the main campus in Orlando for advanced procedures almost every day. Some ambulatory centers are about 30 miles away and, in some cases, the organization of such exams required a stay of over 24 hours for the patient. It also created a backlog of planned MRI exams, which in turn increased the turnaround times.
<p>It’s a technology that enables an off-site tech to be connected to multiple sites and to collaborate with up to three scanning workplaces simultaneously. Knowledge can be shared in real time via live video, audio, and a chat function. “Virtual scanning allowed the expert to stay in one location without having to drive to another location and scan the patients without them having to be transferred over,” says Lee. By reducing the need for transport, resources are freed up for other purposes. Patients are given access to nearby scanner sites, which can be scheduled quickly with a shorter wait time.</p>
<p>One remote technologist can run up to three scans in parallel. Team members win back the time to care for the patients.</p>
How remote imaging works
<p>AdventHealth wanted a solution that eliminated the need to bring the patient to the technology – instead they can now bring the technology to the patient. Virtual technologists are equipped with a laptop and special software so they can scan remotely from any location.<sup>2</sup></p>

Melissa Petrasko, Vice President of Imaging Services, Central Florida Division at AdventHealth, Orlando, Florida, USA.

<p>In 2019, AdventHealth installed the software <a href="syngo%20Virtual%20Cockpit"><em>syngo</em> Virtual Cockpit</a>, which can be used with CT, MR, and MR PET scanners. “Since implementing this technology, we have scanned 1,000 patients already, and haven’t had to repeat a single patient,” says Petrasko. “Previously the rescan rate in smaller campuses was around 40%. This technology enabled AdventHealth to grow its cardiac MRI market share by 38%. And the team loves it.”</p>

syngo Virtual Cockpit2 is a software that enables remote scanning.

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Remote scanning seems to bring more confidence to younger radiology technologists, as they can be guided through the procedures virtually and learn from their experienced colleagues. “Virtual technologists can operate three scanners at once. When someone calls up, we don’t have to cancel or reschedule, they just call their virtual technologist to help facilitate,” concludes Petrasko.

William Lee

More and more scans are needed, but at the same time many places have a shortage of specialists. Today, large hospitals need excellent management capabilities to avoid high labor costs. This also applies to diagnostic imaging where being connected digitally through remote scanning can support the clinical staff, so workflows become easier.
A smart mix of digital health solutions enabled Geisinger to standardize radiology protocols, increase access to care, and maximize equipment utilization. Remote scanning allows care teams to standardize care, increase productivity and deliver high quality imaging services across all locations.
Learn more about how Geisinger Health System is leveraging operational innovations to streamline and standardize care delivery

By Nadine Meru
Nadine Meru has a PhD in biology and works as an editor at Siemens Healthineers. She specializes in technology and innovation topics.