What to expect from chapter 2

Chapter 2:
Improving patient care with digital image management

This chapter is about how the Radiology Department at a leading chil­dren’s hospital overhauled the system it uses to store and manage digital images. State of the art advances in digital imaging technology required an equally state of the art computing system. The complex installation and data migration occurred because a computing professional with experience in the medical industry and a unique vision decided to make change happen on an enterprise scale. The Radiology Department was intended to be just the first of many imaging departments to make a simi­lar overhaul if all went well. Tight teamwork with a technology provider specializing in medical archiving solutions enabled the project to succeed. Care providers perform their jobs with a focus on patients and the new image management system enhances rather than interferes with their work. There is a focus on these technologies in support of the care of pre-term infants and thus the chapter includes material explaining the unique medical challenges faced by severely pre-term babies.

Often it takes computing professionals with an interdisciplinary back­ground to see daring solutions others do not see. With understanding of a content field (medical imaging in this case) and the details of large scale system development it is possible to break new ground. As this chapter demonstrates, knowing who to partner with is equally critical for success. Oftentimes beneficiaries of architectural change are not directly aware of the magnitude of change – in this case, many care providers, patients and their families. However, their overall experience is positive which pro­duces a strong ripple effect throughout the entire system.

Technically this chapter has a strong focus on digital imaging tech­nologies in healthcare, current and evolving standards for digital imaging data management in healthcare, and architectural solutions that address the explosion of multi-dimensional data from a storage and access per­spective. Data standardization (or the lack thereof) is discussed at some length. If you are interested in applying computer science to the medi­cal field on enterprise scale projects such as this one, you need a solid understanding of networking, data management, architecture, and pro­gramming. Some study of high performance computing would be helpful as well.

Aside from the technical skills just described and amplified in the chapter, you need the ability to work well in large teams, and you must be highly organized. To move your way up into a position to take charge of enterprise projects you need excellent communication and formal presen­tation skills. If you want to convince high level administrators or potential clients of the feasibility of your ideas you must understand their perspec­tive which often includes issues of budget and resources. You need to be able to work well with and influence other people whether you are in a position of authority over them or not. Skills to help you in these areas can come from business or industrial engineering classes, economics, project management, accounting, statistics and industrial psychology.

Medical computing is an exploding field, as evidenced by the fact that there are two very different profiles in this book about working as a computer scientist in the health care field. Medical computing provides a direct opportunity to change people’s lives for the better and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of large scale health care delivery. The chal­lenges are all over the map, however the opportunity for being on the forefront of technological and social change is equally broad.