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Asia-Pacific’s radiologists looking to AI to improve diagnosis, yet workflow hurdles hinder progress

A global leader in health technology recently released a new radiology industry study, “Precision Diagnosis: Radiology’s Evolution Towards a Digital Healthcare Future”, which surveyed over 100 radiologists in key countries across the Asia Pacific region about their views and challenges in adopting greater digitization. The report found that eight in ten radiologists believe that AI will be introduced into their current workflow – enabling more confident diagnosis and data processing.

This year, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) unveiled two programs and technologies developed with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The utilization of AI is a significant development in the country’s ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and carries the potential to aid in the transformation of how healthcare is administered in the country.

As a core pillar of healthcare, radiology serves as a critical starting point that informs a patient’s state of health, treatment plan, and journey towards recovery. With rising healthcare challenges of aging populations, chronic disease prevalence, and growing demand for healthcare services, the study reveals that many of the region’s radiologists find themselves at a critical crossroad.

Enhancing workflows, increasing efficiencies

Even as the healthcare industry continues to rapidly digitalize, Philips’ research reveals that a number of factors stand in the way of continued adoption of technology within the field of radiology.

For radiologists in the countries surveyed[1], the top five roadblocks in streamlining workflows through technology adoption are the lack of well-organized, reliable and cybersafe IT environments (56%), cost of digital transformation (47%), staff training and knowledge (34%), data interoperability (32%) and implementation and adoption time (31%).

Yet, positively, the radiologists surveyed say they are adopting the use of multi-modality platforms to manage images across modalities like X-Ray and MRI scans and streamline workflows, led by those in Singapore (97%) and followed closely by their peers in Australia (89%) and South Korea (84%).

Opportunities abound to transform precision diagnosis

Philips’ report also finds that AI is transforming healthcare outcomes in Asia Pacific by enabling radiologists to make more confident diagnosis and treatment decisions. Among the three surveyed countries, Singapore’s radiologists are the biggest champions of AI with two-thirds (66%) believing that AI will be introduced into their current clinical workflow, compared to 60% in Australia and 53% in South Korea.

When asked how they envision the future of precision diagnosis, the radiologists highlighted the use of data and AI to improve patient care, particularly with the use of informatics and cloud technologies to accelerate workflows.

In the Philippines, Philips developed a novel solution to deploy and install diagnostic solutions to minimize COVID-19 exposure among healthcare professionals while addressing patient numbers among localized COVID-19 cases. Through the conversion of industrial shipping containers into CT and X-ray imaging cabins, diagnostic facilities are made more accessible – whether inside hospitals, in hospital grounds, or directly situated within communities in need.

The cabins are equipped with CT solutions such as Philips’ Access CT and Incisive CT, or diagnostic X-Ray solutions such as Philips’ DuraDiagnost and DuraDiagnost F30, configured to allow radiologists to perform diagnostic imaging procedures with minimal or no patient contact[1] – assessing pulmonary damage caused by COVID-19. Each cabin has an integral lead shield to reduce stray radiation, UV (ultraviolet) lamps to sterilize the workspace between use, and a laboratory-grade computer cubicle for the immediate analysis of results. The systems can also be linked into hospital IT networks so that radiologists can remotely view scans.

Workplace challenges hindering productivity

As with other healthcare professions at the frontline of patient care, radiology continues to be a highly intensive, volume-heavy role that has only been exacerbated by workplace and technical challenges, and shortage of skilled talent.

Radiologists across the three countries surveyed continue to face pressures at their workplace, with top concerns being increased patient volumes/high demand (33%), variability in staff expertise (15%), increased staff workload/staff stress (14%), lack of AI integration in clinical workflows (11%) and lack of first-time right imaging for diagnosis (9%).

As the healthcare landscape continues to redefine itself, it’s especially crucial to ensure radiology continues to be a key pillar of this transformation. Healthcare leaders need to engage in deeper dialogue with radiologists to understand their pain points and ensure that new technologies are meaningfully implemented and used to their fullest potential. As the first touchpoint of the patient journey, transforming precision diagnosis towards a smarter, more connected practice will enable physicians to overcome manpower hurdles, and provide more personalized and effective patient care into the future.

[1] Countries surveyed include Singapore, Australia, and South Korea

[1] https://www.philips.com/a-w/about/news/archive/standard/news/articles/2020/20200703-ct-and-x-ray-cabins-to-help-fight-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-the-philippines.html

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