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3 Ways Radiologic Technologists are Improving Patient Care

Nurses reviewing digital brain scans

Today’s medical horizons are expanding like never before as technology and manpower grow, as does the ability to share ideas between medical entities. The field of radiology is a particularly robust example. Radiologic researchers and technologists are making huge strides in safety, image accuracy and detail, software development and disease prevention. Applications for collecting and utilizing radiologic imaging continue to expand. As trials are conducted to scrutinize the superiority of radiologic imaging techniques in conjunction with (or in place of) more conventional procedures, authorities predict that radiologic technologies will become increasingly essential, and could become standard practice to treat a wider array of both existing and suspected conditions. Radiologic technologists are improving patient care and health outcomes in medical settings around the world. They are doing so in three major ways.

Radiologic Imaging Aids in Early Detection

Before screening methods were widely available, a medical care provider had limited means of detecting the existence of internal disease. A physician would become aware of an issue or disease only through observing symptoms that were expressed by the patient during regular visits, or because the patient’s ailment had reached an advanced stage. For example, according to the National Cancer Institute, 65% of documented lung cancer cases in the United States between 2004 and 2013 were not discovered before reaching the highest stages (stages three and four) of the cancer’s development. The current system leaves ample room for symptoms or conditions to remain undetected, or to be detected too late, increasing the likelihood of serious danger and fatalities.

When patient populations are encouraged to use screening procedures (i.e., proactively checking for problems or suspicious findings before they notice outward manifestations), those populations are able to keep a much larger percentage of their diseases and ailments from developing past preliminary stages. Radiologic imaging helps facilitate exactly this type of result.

By providing safe and unobtrusive screening methods capable of detecting a number of diseases, today’s imaging technologies allow physicians to make faster and more accurate diagnoses. For instance, a recent study called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) revealed that participants who used Low-Dose CT scans over more conventional imaging technology to screen for lung cancer achieved a 20.3 percent reduction in lung cancer mortality rates. The large population sample in the study numbered some 53,000 individuals. Similarly, statistics across the board regarding cancer survival rates indicate that diseases discovered in the early stages of development are more easily eradicated. In the case of ovarian cancer for instance, 90 percent of women diagnosed in early stages survive for more than five years, as opposed to just five percent of those diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease.

Imaging Techniques Improve Diagnostic Accuracy

The field of radiology is developing so rapidly that applications never imagined even five years ago are now redefining the use, capacity and potential of imaging technologies. One such area of rapid progress involves the software available for analyzing imaging results. Radiology professionals are investing substantial energy and resources into the development of software systems that can more accurately interpret imaging — referred to as computer-aided detection, or CAD — and provide physicians with another set of digital ‘eyes’ to help them understand images that can sometimes appear inconclusive. Imaging technologies in radiology continue to improve their clarity and ability to show details. Even now, however, some types of scans can still appear ambiguous and can be difficult to interpret.

Advancements in diagnosis improvement are crucial, because medical misdiagnoses remain a large challenge throughout the healthcare industry. Some studies indicate a misdiagnosis rate as high as 10-20 percent of patient cases. The combination of radiologic imaging and analytical software like CAD could greatly enhance the ability of medical professionals to quickly and more accurately diagnose their patients.

Radiologic Imaging Helps Prevent Unnecessary Surgery

A product of more accurate diagnoses — and a key advantage of employing imaging technology — involves the ability to help both physicians and patients avoid unnecessary surgeries. Performing surgery can be expensive, time-consuming, risky and emotionally taxing. It imposes large costs, not only on our healthcare system but also on patients, their families, on medical professionals and support staff. There is a large groundswell of interest in helping reduce the number and rate of unnecessary or ill-advised surgeries. Radiologic scans can help improve diagnostic accuracy and any resulting health measures that may be prescribed. It is estimated that 50 percent of patient diagnoses that use some form of radiologic imaging may be significantly streamlined and suffer smaller risks of misdiagnosis. This in turn, can help increase the effectiveness of resulting treatments, including surgeries.

Radiologic imaging is developing at a rapid pace, and its applications are ever expanding. Many experts foresee that radiology could become standard procedure for a much larger array of procedures, patients and conditions because of the myriad benefits it provides. Radiology allows the possibility of earlier and earlier disease detection, aiding in the more successful treatment of disease and even its prevention. Developments in radiologic imaging are critical to improving our capability to provide ever more effective patient care.

Learn More

The Adventist University of Health Sciences Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences online degree offers working imaging professionals an expanded opportunity to learn the technical, medical and people skills to help them continue their professional growth. Whether your goal is to provide a higher level of patient care or to advance your career by moving into management, education, consulting, or industry, the place to begin is with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences degree.

Recommended Readings

Innovations and Benefits of Mammography for Radiographers
From Analog to Digital Technology: The Evolving Role of the Medical Imaging Professional
The Advent of Teleradiology in Telemedicine