How can Images Improve Medical Workflow?
Images of human anatomy have been around for more than 500 years now. From the sketches created by Leonardo da Vinci, to the modern day Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, images have played a great role in medicine. Evolution in medical imaging brought together people from various disciplines such as Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, a collaboration which has further contributed to healthcare as a whole. Modern day imaging improves medical workflows by facilitating a non-invasive insight into human body, accurate and timely diagnostics, and persistence of an analysis.
Before the discovery of X-rays in 1895, it was impossible to look inside human body, without causing harmful side effects. The famous quote of Anna Bertha Ludwig - “I have seen my death” is a testimony to this. In ancient times, the only way to study internal human organs was the dissection of dead bodies. Additionally, this was also subject to availability or religious beliefs. Leonardo da Vinci made 240 detailed sketches between 1510 and 1511, which were way ahead of their time. Unfortunately, it could not be published, except for a small amount in 1632. Images aide in visualization of illnesses (e.g. a malignant tumor), which are impossible to observe from outside of the body. A surgeon must know the various attributes of the tumor like location and size, before she can operate on it. Similarly an oncologist needs this information to decide the course of treatment e.g. tumor size and metabolic activity may be needed to determine the number of chemotherapy sessions. With images, all this information can be obtained without cutting open the patient. And what’s remarkable is that unlike the older days, an image of a patient can be captured any number of times and during various stages of lifetime (except for limited cases of imaging modalities with harmful radiation).
Secondly, diagnostics is the most crucial part of a medical workflow. Diagnosing the correct disease based on the patient’s subjective inputs is a rather difficult task. Without the images, doctors have to rely on a patient’s observations and their own instincts and experience. Additionally, this might cause missing vital information which is not yet perceptible to the patient or the doctor. Whereas, with a CT or MRI scan, it becomes easier for the doctor to objectify his diagnosis for generic complaints like abdominal or chest pain, which in rare cases, might indicate a severe underlying cause. Also, images are helpful in time-critical diseases like cancer. A timely Magnetic Resonance - Positron Emission Tomography (MR-PET) scan can help diagnose a tumor much earlier thereby substantially increasing the survival rate of the patient. Early detection is the key in areas such as Oncology. Before imaging was possible, these cases were detected either too late or not at all. Moreover, it is not only the kind of disease, but also the...