Good afternoon all,
As the festive break draws to a close, it’s again time for a short reflective back into the world of imaging informatics.
2023 brought continued changes to the usual way we store and access images across the UK, with the usage of ‘in-sky’ cloud based storage increasing a little further as new contracts take effect and migrations occur. On-prem kit remains the first choice for those preferring to retain physical control over the images they acquire but on the whole suppliers generally now seem to be strongly discouraging this method due to the more controllable income and ‘flexible’ subscription models possible in a cloud based environment. Feedback from those using the PACS clouds continues to show both tears and joy, with positive comments from I.T. departments around no longer being responsible for hardware maintenance to complaints around slower retrieval speeds, more cumbersome configurations to modalities, an oddly higher than prior count of corrupted or unavailable images as well as the inevitable issues around service availability and the surprise costs.
The prevalence of Home Reporting has increased again, particularly as the national ‘digital voice’ telephony funding spurs OpenReach and KCOM into providing FTTP in a much wider replacement of copper lines prior to the switch off of analogue exchanges. 1Gbs or 10Gbs FTTP has greatly increased the ‘comfort’ of those working at a distance on 3rd party applications like cardiac or orthopaedic systems, and some Trusts are now looking at moving even clerical staff to remote positions to free up departmental space for clinical purposes (more ultrasound bays as ever!).
Moving to the abbreviation on everyone’s lips - AI. Every year for the past few years we’ve heard how the promised major efficiency benefits of AI continue to be just around the corner. With hundreds of millions in new centralised funding for Radiology AI projects issued throughout 2023 and almost 35% of NHS Trusts having some form of AI ‘collaboration’ in progress it will be interesting to see the developments through the coming year, and how these continue to move forwards when the research pots run dry.
Towards the commercial world, with one PACS vendor now significantly dominating the PACS marketplace in the UK, it will be interesting to see if any others in the ‘big 5’ will be able to step up and modernise their offerings to what is needed across the NHS in the future. Private providers also reached a milestone in taking more of a role in the delivery of public healthcare, with the highest ever number of NHS Diagnostic or Screening services being outsourced or cross-delivered to the private sector in the 2022-2023 financial year, and increasing numbers of Radiographers and non-medical reporting staff joining Radiologists in taking on supplementary roles in those areas.
From our professional groups - the BIR AI & Innovations SIG developed their AI resources and links to industry further, the SCoR Radiology Informatics Advisory Group handled concerns around the large number of vacancies predicted and the effects a shift to cloud / remote working would take on the profession over time. The RCR (as well as having the massive organisational rebranding!) led on the development of departmental workflow and home reporting guidance.
On the training front, 2023 was the busiest ever year for the non-profit informatics training, with over 2,000 individuals trained across the country and internationally, reducing the waiting list almost back down to pre-2020 levels. A personal thank-you to those involved, particularly those who take on the admin burden of scheduling sessions for their teams or consortium and the various (non-Radiology) consultants and specialists who very kindly donated their time to help out with the sessions too. 2024 will bring an exciting development in the delivery of new sessions for particular regions, hopefully going some way to mitigate the continuing trend (for staffing or cost reasons) of suppliers reducing face-to-face training with boilerplate ‘eLearning’ (or a Teams meet).
Looking forwards, as always from the forum, thank you to everyone for the interesting discussions and engaging in the progression of the informatics community over the year. The volunteer moderators, Rhidian and myself wish everyone a very Happy New Year.
Take care and have a peaceful start to 2024, we hope to see more of you again soon.