The Future of Innovation

I did a Google search for “healthcare innovation” and came up with all sorts of hits: “FDA approves novel implanted sensor to watch heart failure”; “Infographics are revolutionizing the patient experience”; “New hepatitis C drug – a priceless breakthrough”; “Big Data has big potential” and wondered just what constitutes something innovative? A lot of that depends on where you look.

Typically, when you use the word “innovative” in the healthcare market sector, it addresses a new drug, a new modality or even a new imaging technique. Yet while healthcare IT may employ new hardware to increase speed or provide a more secure environment for the data that resides on it, the applications that run with the hardware are usually what sets them apart and are considered innovative. That flies in the face of traditional thought processes relating to innovation.

The dictionary says that “innovation is a new idea, device or process,” but that significantly limits how an idea is implemented. Wikipedia’s version is a bit more expansive and includes “…the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that ‘breaks into’ the market or society.” Imaging IT often requires better solutions, especially as it relates to new requirements, both those mandated by the “do more with less” mantra along with state and federal standards.

So just what makes an innovative company? Looking at the customer needs and finding a solution that is done better, faster or cheaper than others do it can be considered innovative; but, it’s how and when they do it that makes the difference. Computer-aided diagnosis is an example of an imaging technology that can be considered innovative, while medical image sharing might be considered another.

Most PACS share the same basic display protocols, yet a few vendors display images in a slightly different manner. Many PACS require the entire study to be loaded before images can be viewed, yet some vendors allow for images to be loaded in the background while the current images are being viewed in real time. That’s innovative. Most PACS vendors today talk about using the cloud or having an enterprise-wide solution. That in itself is far from innovative; yet, doing this over a decade ago, when cloud utilization was in its infancy, can definitely be considered innovative.
Integrating radiology and cardiology PACS into a single seamless clinical imaging system without the use of a broker or customized API can also be considered innovative. Using a single common core at the server level that can handle both data management and workflow for multiple departments across the enterprise is considerably different than interfacing a host of disparate systems and giving a new name to the patched solution. Many facilities also have multiple databases they have to query to compile a patient record so anything that unifies a patient record or disparate systems seamlessly can be considered innovative.

Linking documents, waveforms, audio files and more, while still far from commonplace today, was almost unheard of a decade ago. Select vendors were showing the promise of a multi-media PACS that far back, as well as offering a solution for viewing images remotely in the days before cell phones and tablets. All of these too can be considered imaging innovations.

Radiology has made great strides in the years since Wilhelm Roentgen first detected X-rays in 1895. Electronic imaging has made equal strides since its introduction just under 100 years later. Increases in efficiency and productivity have been the hallmarks of PACS leading to improved health outcomes and better overall patient care. Anything that improves either of those two areas is innovative.

With the advent of patient engagement imaging, companies need to provide innovative ways to protect the data while also allowing it to be shared. Several solutions exist now yet many more will be needed as hackers find new ways around data encryption schema firewalls and other devices designed to protect the integrity of PHI.

Innovation is all around us and applying these advances in the right way can change the way healthcare operates.

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