orr.jpg (8823 bytes)I received my RSNA confirmation and hotel assignment by e-mail today, just after receiving my electronic copy of the HEalthTech ’99 Official Conference Proceedings on CD. This got me thinking that next year I’ll probably be able to avoid the annual pilgrimage to Chicago in favor of attending a Web-enabled virtual RSNA tradeshow and educational conference, and I’ll probably receive next year’s HealthTech proceedings by e-mail. Either we’re getting just a little too wired, or we are now expecting more of our business to work on and throught the Internet.

With daily claims that the internet will change the future of healthcare, I’m more and more interested in medical imaging’s use of the Internet today. So I revved up my browser to tour some obvious healthcare, imaging abd radiology sites to see what is up and running.

I started my tour at Medscape.com, which appears to be the site of choice for medical research for MD’s and healthcare professionals.

Since I am interested in how the internet is changing radiology, I searched and clicked through ti Internet Medicine, an on-line publication now in its fourth year (who say healthcare is slow to adopt computer technology!) THe fast advice from this resource is to skip the general search engines and head for the medical supersites.

Research Guide
The obvious place to research a medical/readiology topic is RSNA.org, a site which is easy to navigate and has a clean interface. After RSNA, head for the medical and healthcare supersites where you select a disease-specific or medical specialty area to investigate. Medmark.org (based in Korea) is among the most comprehensive (with more than 600 links for radiology) sites for finding everything-but-the-kitchen-sink links.

Medical Matrix, medmatrix.org, uses editors to review their site links, thus saving the user time. For everyone concerned with y2k and medical imaging equipment, the best place to check is the FDA (still 150 days left) at www.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/year2000/y2ksearch.cfm .

If you’re into the real thing, check out ahn.com which specializes in webcasting medical procedures such as angioplasty. Ahn.com’s purpose is to let patients see the surgeries they’re about to undergo.

Clinical and academic site searches included Indyrad (Indiana University Department of Radiology’s focus on clinical, teaching, and research activities in radiology), anatomy teaching modules at the University of Washington Radiology webserver (www.rad.washington.edu) and information on residency and jobs through Duke University’s www.radweb.mc.duke.edu radiology site.

In the News
Healtheon.com was my next stop, since the company announced another acquisition recently of Medcast Networks. Jim CLark, founder of Healtheon, Netscape and Silicon Graphics, wants a position in the internet healthcare market at all costs, and is using his company’s venture capital, stock price and name-brand recognition to stake out his ever expanding boundaries. Clark "thinks the Internet can be the driver for the change in the often tangled healthcare industry."

Healtheon’s market cap of about $17 billion suggests that MDs and their offices will be deluged with offers and enticements on the business side of medicine. I expect most of this site’s action will be focused on getting claims apid electronically and managing the administrative questions that bog down almost every medical office and hospital administration. Healtheon’s goals are huge, which matches its treasure chest.

Don’t forget the patient
Lest we forget, the medical world still has to deal with these folks that don’t come through the internet. THe newly launched DrKoop.com site is probably the best known location for patient related healthcare information, and there are many more sites as well.

It’s disappointing, however, to read some of the ‘radiology patient education" information at these sites that immediately instruct patients to plan for their waiting time at the radiology department, and to not be concerned when other patients have to wait less time than they do. Also, patients are instructed to wait again after the procedure for the films to be developed in case a re-take is necessary. It goes on to say that the referring MD will be notified of the results in a few days. This thinking represents both the current and the future challenge for digital, filmless and Internet-enabled radiology operations – a fast and effecient imaging procedure and diagnosis. Sure, we want the radiologist to be paid faster, but what we as patients really want is a fast, accurate answer to our question. It’s great to read about the future of healthcare technology, but it’s better when we finally receive the benefits from healthcare organizations that use it.

The internet is currently very useful for academic and clinical research in radiology, and is just arriving for the benefit of patients. I’ll save my comments on the business sites for radiology for a future review in more detail. Please feel free to forward any feedback on your personal favorite sites and features.

Doug Orr is on vacation this month. This column previously ran in the August 1999 issue of Medical Imaging.

Doug Orr, president of J&M Group (Ridgefield, Conn.), consults with medical device companies in strategy and business development for emerging growth markets, notably radiology and cardiology. Comments and suggestions can be sent to [email protected].