Unnecessary Rescans: The Hidden Scourge of Healthcare

Diagnostic imaging plays a crucial role in modern medicine. But lurking behind every CAT scan, MRI, and X-ray lies a hidden scourge: unnecessary rescans. These repeated imaging procedures — caused by everything from technical glitches and inconclusive results due to sub-optimal patient positioning or operator technique or experience — not only drain valuable resources but also place undue stress on patients.

Thankfully, there are ways to address excessive rescans. It’s time to highlight this overlooked issue and work toward a more efficient, patient-centered approach to diagnostic imaging.

Scan and scan again

A rescan typically refers to the repetition of an imaging procedure — such as a CT MRI, ultrasound or X-ray — due to circumstances impeding the accurate interpretation of the initial scan. A rescan may be required for several reasons, including:

  • Technical issues, from equipment malfunction to image artifact
  • CD’s – still the most common method for exchanging studies – being unreadable by the recipient physician
  • Inconclusive results yielded by the initial scan

These factors collectively contribute to an increasing prevalence of unnecessary rescanning each year. With each rescan comes significant costs and inconveniences for healthcare systems and patients alike.

Several studies and statistics reveal the magnitude of the problem of unnecessary rescanning. For instance, one peer-reviewed publication cites errors in “an estimated day-to-day rate of 3–5% of studies reported, and much higher rates reported in many targeted studies.”

Effectively, of the 1 billion radiologic examinations performed annually, 30-50 million are rescans. This figure — along with others probing the causes behind high rescan rates — underscores the substantial wastes associated with avoidable rescans.

The wastes and dangers of unnecessary rescans

Unnecessary rescans in diagnostic imaging have major implications, in terms of both the financial costs and waste of valuable healthcare resources. Each rescan incurs additional expenses, including equipment usage, staff time, and radiologist interpretations. These costs can add up quickly, burdening healthcare systems and diverting funds that could be allocated to other critical areas of patient care.

The cost also goes beyond the financial expense. One of the top risks associated with unnecessary rescans is the repeated exposure to radiation. Many imaging procedures, such as CT scans, involve the use of ionizing radiation. While the radiation dose from a single scan is typically considered safe, the cumulative effect of multiple scans can elevate the risk of potential radiation-related complications and adverse effects. Indeed, studies indicate that up to 2% of all cancers in the US are linked to CT scans.

Further, as the population ages, the demands on imaging equipment has driven up stress on the infrastructure and clinicians / technicians alike. Accordingly, burn-out rates among professionals is currently at alarming levels, leading to a severe shortage of radiologists. With the over 60 population set to grow nearly 50% by 2050 the current growth in radiology internship of 2.5% will likely deepen the problem.

Patient inconvenience must also be considered. Unnecessary rescans can impose increased stress, anxiety, and frustration due to prolonged waiting times for rescheduled scans, additional visits to the imaging center, and potential delays in receiving a diagnosis. Moreover, excessive rescans can lead to longer wait times for patients who require initial scans delaying their diagnoses and treatment plans.

Strategies for reducing rescans

While the medical field has largely accepted rescans as “part of the process,” modern innovations have unlocked opportunities to mitigate the need for rescans by resolving pain points before, during, and after the initial scans. Here’s how:

  • Embrace advancements in imaging technology. For example, TeleRay enables remote specialist consultation during initial scans, decreasing errors caused by operator inexperience or technical glitches. Additionally, the integration of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis.
  • Implement standardized protocols. By adhering to well-defined and widely accepted protocols, such as positioning guidelines, imaging parameters, and acquisition techniques, providers can ensure consistency and optimize scan quality. Standardization minimizes variations in imaging practices and facilitates better comparability between studies.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Encouraging an open dialogue and providing clear communication channels allow for a better understanding of clinical indications and patient history, reducing the likelihood of misinterpretation or incomplete information. Radiologists can offer guidance to technicians during scans, ensuring optimal image acquisition, while referring physicians can provide comprehensive clinical information to enhance the accuracy of interpretations.
  • Offer continuous education and training. Radiologists, technicians, and other staff members should be well versed in the latest imaging techniques, quality assurance measures, and protocols. Continuous education and training can decrease technical errors and increase the efficiency of initial imaging.

Mitigate the scourge of rescans

Unnecessary rescans pose a considerable burden on healthcare systems, patients, and resources. By embracing advancements in imaging technology, implementing standardized protocols, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, providers can take steps toward reducing rescans. While every scan won’t be viable, in the modern era, there’s more opportunity than ever to get it right the first time.

Learn how TeleRay can help healthcare providers manage medical imaging more efficiently. Book a demo today at teleray.com.

Electronic Image Exchange Systems Improve Healthcare, but at What Cost?

The healthcare industry is undergoing rapid innovation thanks to numerous technological advancements. In radiology, electronic image exchange systems (EIES) have emerged as a game-changer, offering seamless access to medical images and reports, facilitating collaboration among healthcare professionals, and enhancing patient care. But as the benefits of EIES become increasingly evident, it’s crucial to consider the costs associated with their implementation.

From privacy concerns and interoperability challenges to the financial burden of infrastructure and training, there are multifaceted challenges facing EIES. It raises the question: How can you ensure the benefits outweigh the costs?

Benefits of electronic image exchange systems

To understand why electronic image exchange systems have become a centralized, staple technology in diagnostic imaging, you must consider the benefits they provide:

  • Streamlined access: Electronic image exchange systems allow healthcare providers to access medical images and accompanying reports quickly and easily. This expedites the process of retrieving patient data and enables professionals to make informed decisions about diagnosis and treatment more efficiently.
  • Enhanced collaboration: By securely sharing images and reports electronically, physicians, radiologists, and other specialists can consult with one another, discuss cases, and reach a consensus on patient management. This improves interdisciplinary teamwork and leads to better patient outcomes.
  • Improved outcomes: Rapid access to medical images through EIES helps providers make timely and accurate diagnoses. When images are readily accessible, healthcare professionals can compare current and past images, track disease progression, and make informed decisions about ongoing treatment.
  • Time and cost savings: Traditional methods of transferring medical images — such as burning images onto CDs or physically delivering films — can be time-consuming and costly. Through EIES, providers can securely share images with the click of a button. This efficiency allows for faster turnaround times and lower media costs.

Challenges and costs associated with EIES

Like most technologies, electronic image exchange systems benefit providers, patients, and healthcare organizations only when they are implemented and used effectively. This is where obstacles begin to emerge for many organizations, including common barriers such as:

  • Privacy and security concerns: Where there’s digital data, there’s a risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Healthcare organizations must implement robust security measures, encryption techniques, and access controls to mitigate these risks. Compliance with HIPAA adds an extra layer of complexity and cost to EIES implementation.
  • Interoperability issues: Electronic image exchange systems often face challenges in achieving interoperability due to variations in data formats, protocols, and proprietary systems. Healthcare organizations may need to invest in additional resources to ensure compatibility between their EIES and other systems used by external providers or facilities.
  • Infrastructure and maintenance costs: If they don’t already possess them, organizations must acquire servers, storage, networking equipment, and software licenses to support the exchange and storage of medical images. Additionally, there are ongoing costs associated with EIES maintenance, updates, and upgrades.
  • Training and learning curve: Adopting a new EIES may pose challenges for healthcare professionals accustomed to traditional methods of image sharing. Training can improve proficiency but requires allocating time and resources for learning, which can impact productivity.

Balancing the pros and cons

The decision to deploy EIES requires careful evaluation of the potential benefits weighed against the real costs and barriers each organization faces in any situation, but most particularly in smaller practices where financial and workflow impacts usually are disproportionately greater than in larger organizations. A cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken to determine if the advantages outweigh the potential drawbacks

  • Assess the existing technological infrastructure and determine if it can support EIES.
  • Identify resources and budgets for upfront investments, maintenance, and upgrades.
  • Plan for ethical considerations, such as patient consent for sharing and accessing images.
  • Account for legal implications, including HIPAA compliance surrounding electronic protected health information.

If there’s a clear path toward ROI, the focus narrows to the specific risks and challenges faced by the organization. This might include prioritizing data security, adopting industry standards for interoperability, and developing comprehensive training programs to facilitate adoption.

Achieving a better standard of care

Electronic image exchange systems have undeniably made significant strides in improving healthcare delivery. They streamline access to vital medical images, promote collaboration among healthcare professionals, and enhance patient care. But it’s imperative to acknowledge and address the costs and challenges accompanying these benefits.

As electronic image exchange systems continue to expand, striking a balance will be key. Focusing on purposeful implementation and adhering to best practices are the best ways to mitigate the cost of innovation and ensure maximum ROI — both in patient care and on the bottom line.

Learn how TeleRay is designed from the ground up to not only meet and exceed these requirements as the fastest, most secure EIES available with no/low implementation footprint but also to do so remarkably economically to drive up ROI. Book a demo today at teleray.com/book-a-demo.