Caitlin Clement|3/23/2023|3 min read

Teleradiology Streamlines Diagnostic Imaging Services for Hospitals

Increased access to licensed radiologists for faster diagnostics

provider reviewing patients X-ray results via teleradiology

Teleradiology has become a more widely adopted telemedicine service due to short staffing and high demand for diagnostic imaging services. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, the teleradiology service market is expected to reach $26.4 billion by 2031. This predicted growth is due in part to its several adoption perks like increased access to radiologists, reduced overhead costs and faster diagnostics.

What is teleradiology?

Teleradiology is an electronic transmission of radiological patient images, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) images and magnetic resonance images (MRI), from one location to another for interpretation and consultation by a licensed radiologist. 

One of the earliest efforts of teleradiology was back in 1929 when dental X-rays were transmitted via telegraph to another location. Thankfully, the practice has come a long way since the telegraph. Compressed digital imaging tools and picture archiving & communication systems (PACS) have helped hospitals and physicians make teleradiology more accessible to their patients. 

Types of diagnostic images supported by teleradiology:

  • X-Rays

  • MRIs

  • CT Scans

  • Ultrasounds

How can teleradiology benefit your patients?

Teleradiology is one of the fastest growing telemedicine specialties alongside mental health and gastroenterology. Health systems, hospitals and clinics are finding it to be a cost effective and efficient way to review diagnostic images. Here are some of the benefits of teleradiology for you and your patients.

Increased access to radiologists

Right now, there’s a shortage of healthcare workers in almost every field of medicine, radiology is no exception. Especially for rural hospitals, staffing radiologists to meet their imaging needs can be a challenge. This shortage then leads to longer wait times for treatment decisions while decreasing workflow efficiency within healthcare organizations.

Additionally, when specialty cases arise, hospitals and clinics have quick access to more specialized radiologists that they otherwise wouldn’t have the caseload to staff. The need for radiologists to review medical imaging is only increasing—implementation of teleradiology within service lines has helped hospitals close some of those care gaps. 

Diagnose and treat patients faster

Teleradiology gives hospitals access to radiologists that reside in different states (with the right licensing requirements) in order to meet their imaging needs. Additionally, the convenience and innovation of technology has allowed secure sharing of diagnostic images instantly. For hospitals and patients living in more rural areas or underrepresented populations, this means a faster diagnosis and better patient outcomes and care. 

Lower overhead costs

Teleradiology eliminates the need for radiologists and patients to travel thanks to its remote capabilities. These specialists can review and collaborate with other members of the care team from anywhere in the country. 

Additionally, hospitals and clinics may not have the funds or the caseloads to justify a full-time radiologist. Telemedicine offers a more cost-effective solution to their diagnostic imaging needs and gives them access to more specialized areas of radiology when specialty cases require them.

Cons of teleradiology

Many of the cons associated with teleradiology can be found in telehealth as an industry. Listed below are some of the disadvantages you might face when using teleradiology.

Implementation costs

The addition of any new technology or process is going to incur some upfront implementation costs in order for it to perform correctly. However, this can be a true barrier for hospitals or clinics that don’t have the funding available to do it. 

The bright side to this is as technology continues to be improved, installing new systems and API integrations is becoming easier and cheaper to achieve. This pain point is why we’ve seen an emergence of telehealth support companies like OpenLoop Health come out of the pandemic virtual care surge. They offer teams and services that help healthcare organizations and providers enter into telehealth faster and more seamlessly than if they were to do it on their own. 

Reimbursement can be tricky

Medicaid and some Medicare programs offer reimbursement for asynchronous forms of care like the secure upload and review of images to a licensed provider. However, most private and commercial payers are still waiting for more research to come out across telemedicine before making the big leap.

Due to this, much of the telehealth world is still cash-pay, which could be a disadvantage for some. Where teleradiology can make this up is in its cost-reduced service fees from the elimination of provider and patient travel and its convenience factors. 

Some miscommunication could occur

If systems and processes are not correctly integrated into a service line, there is potential for communication between the primary provider, the technologist and the radiologist to be misinterpreted. 

That is why finding the right EHR platform for your healthcare practice and training your team on the correct process is so important! If you’re thinking of adding virtual care to your service line, make sure you research and vet multiple EHR and video conferencing softwares to find the right one for your organization or practice. If maintaining everything in house is too much, think about outsourcing some of your administrative and regulatory work to a telehealth support company. 

Rapid adoption to continue post-pandemic

According to a 2020 Emergen Research report, the global teleradiology market size was $5.6 billion in 2019. Due to the industry's ability to enhance diagnosis and accelerate treatment decisions, the market is expected to reach $40 billion by 2028.

Another factor contributing to this predicted growth is the increase in chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, orthopedic injuries and others, requiring more diagnostic imaging to be ordered. Basically, teleradiology doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. 

Powering virtual diagnostic imaging

As you begin building your telemedicine practice, we’d like to introduce OpenLoop! We offer a full-suite of superior services that give health organizations and their providers scalable tools to build better patient outcomes. Our Diagnostic Imaging service allows companies and their providers to streamline their image ordering, referrals and results in one easy-to-use portal.

Interested in what our services can offer your organization? Get in touch here!

Our full suite of Telehealth Support Services include: