The rapidly increasing need for radiology diagnostic and image interpretation services around the world has brought two major issues to light. The first is the lack of radiologists and the other is the dearth of specialized knowledge.
Building reliable communication and image transfer systems to tap into the expertise of radiologists who are not on-site can solve these issues to some extent. Hospitals, mobile imaging firms, urgent care clinics, and even some private practices all around the world are increasingly using tele-radiology. Tele-radiology improves patient care by allowing radiologists to provide services without having to be physically present at the imaging site so that the patients can receive round-the-clock access to trained specialists.
Tele-radiology is significantly less expensive than having a radiologist on-site. These services are typically priced per exam, with the cost as low as $1 per X-ray Tele-radiology has transformed the practice of many radiology clinics around the world, allowing them to provide results faster and by facilitating access to the radiologist, adding enormous value to the diagnostic process.
To set up a tele-radiology system between two centres, one requiring radiologist’s services and one providing radiologist’s services, the following elements are needed:
- Modality – a system that captures the medical image and has the facility to send these images in the preferred format i.e., DICOM
- PACS – a system that stores, sends, and receives medical images (DICOMs) and that can be identifiable by a unique address (like IP address, port number, etc.)
- Gateway – a medium that handles communication between the two centers (source and the destination) – receives the medical images from the source and sends back the output in the required format) using API calls. Complying with the data security and Protected Health Information (PHI) standards, de-identification and re-identification of confidential information can be performed by the Gateway.
- API Hub – a single place where all the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can be published and shared with external parties/clients by the intended service provider (tele-radiology) com
Introducing Aarthi Scans: India’s largest Tele-radiology service provider
India with its population of around 1.44 billion, right now we have around 1 radiologist for 100,000 people. Most rural India still lacks adequate radiological services and personnel, and not all imaging centers have subspecialty expertise, tele-radiology plays a significant role in quality diagnostics.
Aarthi Scans and Labs, one of the largest diagnostic centers were started in the year 2000 by Mr. Govindarajan. Today Aarthi Scans has more than 100+ branches across 10 states.It was in 2011 that they started their tele-radiology services to provide quick reporting for emergency cases and nighttime reporting and to ensure continuous reporting even when radiologists go on leave. Their radiologists' review over 200,000 CTs, 250,000 MRIs, and 2.1 million chest X-rays annually.
“At that point of time in 2011, when we started tele-radiology, telemedicine as a concept had not evolved in India. Radiologists giving reports without being present at the scanning location was viewed with skepticism. But once the referring doctors started viewing the benefits of tele-radiology, like nighttime reports, subspecialty reporting, they were impressed. Radiologists also needed a lot of convincing to report tele-radiology images. We standardised and digitised patient history, records, improved communication channels between tele-radiologists and radiographer in scanning sites and there was a slow and steady adoption by the Radiologist community. Our PACS vendor – Mr Ravindran from Innowave Healthcare Technologies helped us a great deal in solving the workflow related issues and helping us choose the right technology for us.”
– Govindarajan, Aarthi Scans and Labs
Aarthi Scans has taken a step forward by incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their reporting procedure, demonstrating their commitment to staying on the cutting edge of technology. The ratio of one radiologist to more than 100,000 people in India has resulted from stress in radiology reporting, scan misreads and reporting delays. Any solution that might assist radiologists to relax and improve their productivity is always welcome at the technologically advanced setup at Aarthi Scans, and AI can be of immense value add in this scenario.
Qure.ai's qXR, a Chest X-ray interpretation software – a CE Class II certified product – has been installed in Aarthi Scans diagnostic centers. The most common application of qXR in this setting is for Radiologist assistance to triage any scans with abnormalities on the worklist. The images are scanned and interpreted in under a minute. All scans that qXR identifies some findings in, are saved as a draft in the radiology worklist for further assessment and reporting. The report is generated in a natural language, significantly reducing the typing time that constitutes a significant portion of the reporting time. The final report is released in 30% lesser time due to this triaging mechanism and reading assistance by qXR.
Qure.ai is a leading solution provider and we validated a few solutions before choose Qure.ai. We chose qXR because the accuracy in categorising a study as normal or abnormal is very high (95%)!”. “We have been using qXRin our day-to-day radiological practice across India in all our branches. We are huge fans of qXR's accuracy and utility.”
– Dr. Arunkumar Govindarajan, Director, Aarthi Scans and Labs
Qure PACS gateway for acquiring the Chest X-rays is integrated with Freedom Nano PACS which is present in every center of Aarthi Scans. Each center is authenticated with a unique token for the transmission of the studies and their corresponding results. The end-to-end transmission is supported by API calls that communicate with the Qure API hub to send the studies to the qXR AI models for processing. The AI interpretations are sent back to Freedom Nano PACS, where the radiologist can view the result from the individual centers. API and back to Freedom Nano PACS, where the radiologist can view the result from the individual centers. API and https-based communication make the data secured even on the cloud.
Since partnering with Aarthi Scans four months ago, qXR has processed over 45,000 scans, triaging 55% of scans with abnormal findings. On a daily basis, qXR processes 200 chest X-rays.
Scans that are classified as normal by qXR can be evaluated by the radiologist more quickly, giving them more time to review the abnormal scans and cutting down on overall reporting time. This has led to a reduction in the TAT by 30%. The qXR Secondary Capture output also uses contours to localize anomalies in the lungs, enabling radiologists to recognize abnormalities more accurately, without spending as much time as a regular scan.
Finalising a Chest X-ray report as 'normal' is like passing through the valley of uncertainty for every Radiologist and qXR is like that friendly colleague who assists you with a second opinion / confirmation without bias. qXR saves our Radiologists' time and removes doubt while reporting.qXR has resulted in a 30% reduction in reporting time for our Radiologists.
– Dr. Aarthi, Director, Aarthi Scans and Labs
Insights into incorporating AI into the practice – Dr. Arunkumar Govindarajan
“Learning about basics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has helped me a lot to understand the inner workings of AI and terminologies. To start and understand in deep about AI one can take Coursera courses like – “AI for Everyone" by Andrew Ng and “AI for Medical Diagnosis” by DeepLearningAI. There are a lot of AI solutions out there, one can research in google to find which will suit your patients' and radiologist's needs. Once you fix a good AI vendor –
- do your own validation and provide transparent feedback
- partner with a good IT & PACS vendor and fix a workflow suited to your organization's needs. AI integration into PACS takes a bit of effort from the AI and PACS vendor. Be present during the meetings to ease the process and quickly resolve doubts”
After successful operations with qXR in all our centers, we will be next deploying Qure’s AI solution, qER for detecting brain abnormalities from head CT scans.
“Time is Brain and quick qER report never goes in vain” Dr. Arunkumar Govindarajan, Director, Aarthi Scans and Labs