The Future of Patient Care
of breast imaging at The Valley Hospital, says. “Our goal is always to detect cancer at its smallest, earliest stages when it’s most treatable.”
The technology allows radiologists to screen the complete breast and digitally combines multiple X-rays to reduce the distortion created by tissue overlap or density. This enables radiologists to better target the size, shape and location of a lump or tumor.
“It has improved our detection of architectural distortions in the breast, and made it easier to locate a tumor which, ultimately, leads to an increase in our cancer detection rates,” Calem-Grunat says.
Lung cancer has also been significantly impacted by advances in diagnostic imaging. Englewood Hospital and Medical Center is among many hospitals that are now screening smokers to aid in the early detection of lung cancer, and Medicare recently began offering coverage for patients in a particular age range who meet certain criteria, such as those who are currently smokers or who have smoked in the past.
“CT scans have been show to detect the earliest manifestations of lung cancer, which translates to the best hope for a cure,” Shapiro says. “There was a time when we couldn’t find these cancers until they spread to the lymph nodes…and we’re hoping that our improved ability to pick up the smallest, earliest nodules of lung cancer will have an impact on patients’ long-term survival, which has historically been poor.”
Since these scans would be performed annually, the low-dose techniques utilized by the latest CT scans will also significantly lower the concerns associated with repeated radiation exposure.
The impact of the improvements in the field of radiology is even more significant than the earlier detection and diagnosis of various injuries and diseases. Due to improved diagnostic imaging capabilities, today’s patients have access to treatment plans that represent a collaboration of many health care professionals.
“There’s been a huge paradigm shift,” Pierce says. “Radiologists are working more closely with physicians and even interacting directly with the patient in determining the best treatment strategy.”
This new approach may also ultimately have an impact on healthcare costs.
“There’s been a big push in healthcare to provide value-based care, and only do what’s necessary,” Shapiro says. “By eliminating unnecessary additional imaging or procedures, we’re not only providing the optimal diagnoses and treatment plans, but we’re using our resources wisely and in the most cost-effective way for the patient.”
According to Shapiro, Englewood Hospital incorporates all of its subspecialties at monthly conferences, which allows physicians in various disciplines to collaborate on difficult cases to determine the best course of action for the patient.
“From the surgeon to the oncologist to the radiologist, all of these different disciplines are using the diagnostic technology we have available to offer multiple viewpoints on the best course of action,” he says. “By the time the patient meets with his or her physician, they’re actually receiving the expertise and experience of an entire team of professionals without even realizing it.”