Mobility is coming to radiology, and the iPad has a lot to do with that. At this week's Radiological Society of North America annual conference in Chicago, several teams of researchers are presenting papers on how well the Apple tablet-style device performs in various clinical settings.
The iPad's resolution isn't quite good enough for primary reading, but it's getting there. "The iPad holds great potential in mobile imaging, for secondary diagnosis and as an adjunct to an imaging report, and potentially screening for gross pathology," Dr. Frederick Weiss of the University of Maryland said in introducing a study on evaluating images for the presence of tuberculosis, AuntMinnie.com reports. In fact, Weiss' Baltimore-based research team found no significant difference in the number of misdiagnoses of TB on an iPad vs. a commercial-grade LCD monitor.
Among radiologists participating in the study, 30 percent preferred the image quality on an LCD PACS monitor, while 20 percent said the iPad delivered a better image. The remaining 50 percent found no major differences. "Subjectively, the majority of participants felt that the iPad was equal or superior to the LCD monitors used at a typical workstation with regard to the image quality and visualization," Weiss said.
Meanwhile, improved apps for reading CT and MRI images and suitable encryption measures for the iPad could help untether radiologists from the traditional reading room and, in the words of Nassau University Medical Center (East Meadow, N.Y.) radiology resident Dr. Toshi Clark, "help combat the trend of decreasing radiologist-patient and -clinician interaction," according to Health Imaging News.
Clark believes that outpatient imaging centers and emergency departments specifically could benefit from reading images on iPads. In the former case, radiologists could quickly show results to patients, helping to improve office efficiency. In the ED, Clark believes clinicians could rely on iPads for image guidance, for checklists when inserting central lines and for taking ultrasounds of patients in intensive care who are too unstable to be moved to rooms with PACS terminals.
Clark says the iPad's resolution of 1024-by-768 pixels already meets the requirements for MRI, CT and ultrasound images. Wi-Fi access addresses any speed problems related to downloading large image files, too, Clark tells Health Imaging News. "Finally, data security/HIPAA compliance would be ensured by 128-bit SSL connections and passcode encryption of all data, features of iPhone OS 4.0," Clark and his colleagues wrote in the paper, due to be presented Wednesday.