Digitization poses threat to radiographers, says Engelhorn

2015 06 22 12 04 52 721 2015 06 23 Mainz Thumb

MAINZ - Digitization is having a significant effect on midlevel professionals, and some radiographers' jobs will disappear due to the rising level of automation in image acquisition and the availability of more low-level, lower-cost nursing staff for handling patient positioning according to preset profiles, predicted a senior German healthcare IT expert.

Newly emerging professions include data analysts handling research and queries in patient data repositories, as well as collaboration managers who are responsible for making available the technology required for smooth communication flows, Michael Engelhorn told delegates on 18 June at the KIS-RIS-PACS und DICOM Treffen 2015 event in Mainz, Germany.

Michael Engelhorn is a medical computer scientist with 40 years of experience in consultancy services and project management in healthcare IT.Michael Engelhorn is a medical computer scientist with 40 years of experience in consultancy services and project management in healthcare IT.

"We need to end digital carelessness, and start building digital competence -- now," Engelhorn said. "This is the only option we have to meet the quality and productivity challenges in care delivery -- and to tap the full potential of digital tools which are already in place."

The growing penetration of IT also is having an effect on the patient. The level of "emancipation" of patients is increasing -- they research their condition and the service quality of providers on the Internet and in social media, although the respective information is not always reliable, he continued. In future, patients will present with data their devices have generated -- with questionable acceptance by their doctor.

Digitization has long since arrived in the delivery of care, carried along by the wave of consumerism, but regulations, education, and many further aspects of working life have been lagging behind, and Engelhorn called for urgent action.

Improved access, quality, and economic viability will be the benefits of the increasing penetration of healthcare IT, and availability of patient information any time, any place is the key driver, he added. In this context of the future of medicine, collaboration is the major trend, and it will be enabled by IT, implying a cross-discipline approach as well as active participation of the patient. Health information systems will need to cater for needs that arise from collaboration.

Telemedicine, an important ingredient in future care delivery, will integrate telehealth monitoring and teletreatment, according to Engelhorn. Critical treatment paths that may require a rapid decision to deviate necessitate training and simulation across disciplines. In this changing environment, staff will be more rigidly tied to processes, meaning that health workers will need to know about the process landscape and think along processes.

A total of 270 users, researchers, consultants, and industry representatives met last week in Schloss Waldthausen, a spectacular castle near Mainz.A total of 270 users, researchers, consultants, and industry representatives met last week in Schloss Waldthausen, a spectacular castle near Mainz.

Competence allows for a high-quality environment that leads to increased productivity and helps to achieve staff satisfaction, which is essential for good quality of care. The education challenge consists in providing understanding of IT systems, of networked systems including medical technology, of data privacy, and social competence in a digital world, and all these skills need to be brought up to date continuously, Engelhorn emphasized.

In Germany and elsewhere, approaches to education are anachronistic in light of the progress being made. Professional organizations are aiming at integrating suitable topics in curricula; however, digitization is already part of the reality now, and there are no trained trainers as of today.

"Access to education has to be made available on the Web. This ties in with the current trend from teacher centrism to peer education. To build competence for e-learning and media self-management are challenges individuals as well as institutions will have to meet," he said.

In the digital era, work becomes boundless regarding time and place, and globalization is making relentless headway; teleradiology will gain further ground in the context of a price-driven approach and shortages of qualified staff, Engelhorn said.

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