Re-imagining radiology for the future, through a patient-centered lens

COVID-19 has profoundly affected patient access to the healthcare system in Canada. In response to the immense backlog of patients waiting for diagnostic imaging and the threat of burnout of healthcare professionals caused by the pandemic, the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) established a Canadian Radiology Resilience Task Force.

The Task Force, led by CAR Board member Dr. Heidi Schmidt, is comprised of radiologists, technologists, and medical physicists from across the country and is supported by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). Health Canada engaged with the Taskforce as a health system knowledge user. The Taskforce also included international consultation and participation from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Germany.

The Task Force embarked on a Radiology Resilience Now and Beyond initiative to better understand how to prevent gaps in care delivery, and to determine where and how those gaps had been exacerbated by the shutdown. At the center of this enterprise is the desire to maintain continuity of care for patients. Radiology can take a leadership role in the COVID-19 recovery by optimizing service delivery while focusing on the patient experience.


After months of work connecting with the community across the country, the CAR published the Radiology Resilience Now and Beyond Report. The report was informed by member surveys, as well as the best publicly-available data. From the moment the first SARS-CoV-2 cases were recorded in Canada, radiologists stepped up to lead through uncertain and challenging times. The report aims to share lessons learned from the radiology community’s experiences, while celebrating the success stories that have emerged in the face of this difficult process.

The report includes four main foci:

  1. The impact COVID-19 has had on wait times for medical imaging.
  2. Lessons learned during the pandemic, and how radiology can adapt while moving forward.
  3. Recommendations for enhancing the resilience of radiology, including investment in human resources, technology, and infrastructure.
  4. The future of radiology and where we see medical imaging in five-10 years.

 

The Task Force examined wait time data for medical imaging and surveyed the current challenges facing radiology departments, with the intent to make recommendations about how to build resilience in the face of disruption. For radiology, developing resilience will enable departments and clinics to recover quickly from difficulties and disruptions with minimal effect on patient care. Resilience also requires capacity and flexibility within the health system to adapt to shifting demands and pressures created by COVID-19 now, and in the future.

The Report includes 10 key recommendations:

  1. Invest in infrastructure to collect standardized data
  2. Adopt standardized imaging prioritization categories and benchmarks across all provinces and territories
  3. Invest in human resources
  4. Let data drive procurement and investment in capital equipment.
  5. Institute clinical decision support tools
  6. Create centralized intake systems for CT and MRI
  7. Reorganize clinical space
  8. Reassess the metrics being used to measure radiology performance
  9. Harness AI applications
  10. Develop a disaster preparedness plan

The radiology community in Canada responded to the disruption caused by COVID-19 with a strong, agile response as it endeavoured to adapt to uncertain, complex, and evolving circumstances, while ensuring the continuity of high-quality patient care to the greatest extent possible. Through this experience, radiology departments and clinics worked to build resilience while fostering their ability to recover from challenges and emerge stronger on the other side. As the pandemic continues, the radiology community has collectively accumulated many lessons learned in responding to the pandemic while continuing to care for patients. This will support the full resumption of services following the pandemic.

Some of the new protocols made to patient scheduling, examination workflow, and communication necessitated by these circumstances can be harnessed and re-tooled to incite lasting, positive change to medical imaging care in Canada.

The Radiology Resilience Now and Beyond Report is one of the many initiatives that the CAR, working with healthcare partners, has undertaken during the pandemic to provide radiologists with guidance and to advocate for federal investment in medical imaging equipment, infrastructure, and health human resources. Read the full report online: https://car.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/RAD_Resilience-Report_2020_ENG_FINAL.pdf.