Cloud-based platforms could expand teleradiology access to tens of thousands of patients in need

Dedicated teleradiology services could expand quality healthcare in regions where access and staffing shortages hinder patient care the most. 

African countries in particular have vulnerable patient populations due to a lack of specialty trained physicians, including radiologists. A new paper published Friday in Clinical Imaging details how a cloud-based platform increased access to radiology services for tens of thousands of patients in Africa over a five-year period. 

Using high quality DICOM-image transfer over a cloud-based platform, a teleradiology service based in India provided reporting for an additional 58,223 scans of 39,513 patients between 2017 and 2022. 

In regions like Africa, where the availability of quality healthcare trails behind demand for such services, there is “an eminent need” for interventions that can improve care, and teleradiology has the potential to provide that, authors of the new paper suggested. 

“Teleradiology provides an effective solution for early diagnosis/interpretation of examinations performed in Africa and may be used for other developing countries across the world to improve quality of care,” corresponding author Neetika Mathur, from Image Core Lab in India, and colleagues wrote. 

MR was the most commonly used imaging modality (34.5 %) followed by CR (32.3 %) and CT (30.7 %). Ultrasound reads were less frequent because those exams are performed by radiologists in Africa (there are no training programs for sonographers in the region) and interpreted at the time of examination. 

Not only did the teleradiology service increase the number of exams interpreted in the region, it did so in a timely manner as well. The mean report turnaround time was just under 2.5 hours. 

The mean turnaround time (TAT) for plain radiographs was 2.43 hours, compared to 2.21 hours for CT, 2.70 hours for MRI and 2.69 hours for mammograms. For patients presenting with stroke related symptoms, the TAT was 1.74 hours, which is reasonable, but significantly higher than the time it takes to read on-site within a hospital. Remote reads might not be ideally suited for some exams that require expedited TATs, the group suggested.

While not foolproof, teleradiology does present an effective solution in areas where access to radiology services is lacking, the authors wrote, adding that the current model from this study could be deployed in other developing countries to improve patient care. 

Hannah murhphy headshot

In addition to her background in journalism, Hannah also has patient-facing experience in clinical settings, having spent more than 12 years working as a registered rad tech. She joined Innovate Healthcare in 2021 and has since put her unique expertise to use in her editorial role with Health Imaging.

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