May 2013

Trading Quality for Quantity?
By Jim Knaub
Radiology Today
Vol. 14 No. 5 P. 3

Most people agree that health care IT can improve the quality of radiology care. And most also would agree that IT can improve imaging workflow, increasing the quantity of work radiologists and technologists can handle. But can it do both at the same time?

Such thorny little issues frequently become the topic of the closing session at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting—as did this one. Katherine P. Andriole, PhD, FSIIM; J. Raymond Geis, MD; David L. Weiss, MD, FSIIM; and Gary J. Wendt, MD, MBA, will lead the session “Quality, Quantity, or Both: Can You Really Have It All?” to bring down the curtain on SIIM 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. The existence of a session with such a title implies that at least some people are skeptical about the possibility.

I recently bumped into the question at the HIMSS annual meeting. In a discussion and subsequent e-mails, radiologists talked about having access to patient histories and priors to aid them in interpreting studies. Since EMR use is expanding across health care, does that mean radiologists have access to this information through electronic records? Increasingly, that answer is yes—if the radiologist is working in a hospital environment. Generally, according to my correspondences, the answer still is no for those reading in a teleradiology environment.

That’s when the thorny little issue of quality of work vs. quantity entered the discussion. A thoughtful radiologist I know quietly pointed out that many radiologists really don’t want all that information at their fingertips all the time; it slows them down when they consult the EMR in every case. As a practical matter, most radiologists would like access to information in the medical record that may help them in a tough case but may not want to use it for every case.

Those radiologists among you who have access to EMR information, how is it changing how you handle cases? Does it affect a small or large number of your cases? Drop Radiology Today a note with your experiences. And I hope to see some of you at SIIM in Texas.

Enjoy the issue.