Whether it be diagnostics, treatment, or even a rehabilitation process, all medical procedures have an obvious goal: bringing benefits to patients. For instance, sonography requires using ultrasound waves for examining soft tissues; magnetic resonance, in turn, involves magnetic fields to make images. Neither waves nor magnets have negative influence on a person’s organism. Biopsies, for example, which are procedures to take person’s cells, are also harmless.

However, some medical operations have adverse effects. I’m referring to computed tomography, fluoroscopy (chest X-ray, dental X-ray, mammography, angiography), as well as the usage of radionuclide pharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat patients within nuclear medicine imaging. These procedures expose the patient to ionizing radiation, putting them at risk of developing carcinogenic tumors. And if we speak about fluoroscopy procedures, in particular, here there are also risks for patients to suffer from serious X-ray induced skin injuries.  

Each of the above mentioned operations entails different amounts of radiation. To have a clear picture, let’s compare the dose absorbed by the patient during the exam, with that of background radiation (all-pervasive ionizing radiation in the environment), received in a certain period of time:


Better Images vs. Higher Risks

Some medical centers and governmental institutions all over the world make efforts to minimize the risks of imaging (for example the USA’s Food and Drug Administration – FDA) is collaborating with the American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America to create a patient imaging record card). Moreover, they advocate for carrying out these procedures only in case of emergency and for the implementation of minimal radiation doses.

The truth is that the purpose of such procedures is to obtain a great number of high-resolution images. The higher the radiation dose is, the better the pictures the medical technologist gets of the patient’s organs. Minimal doses aimed at reducing risks are not an ideal variant either, because they only allow getting low-resolution imaging, which may be an obstacle for accurate diagnostics. Moreover, in different countries this indicator varies, and due to obsolete machines people can be exposed to maximum doses without getting high-quality images. That’s why there’s a need for a golden mean that would allow well-being to prevail over risk.  

People receive about 0.5-1 mSv per year of background radiation. The maximum ionizing radiation dose for the average human is 5 mSv per year (50 mSv for radiation workers). It’s strictly prohibited to exceed this level, as a higher radiation dose may do harm to cells, then to skin and organs. That’s why every person needs to track all the procedures they are exposed to during their lifetime. Tracking will be of a particular interest for those patients who frequently employ the services of medical technologists. It is a must to raise awareness among the patients who have health issues that require them to stay informed of radiation doses and possible risks.

Room for improvement

Medical technologies are constantly developing as is IT, so, it makes sense to ask for the help of IT experts to develop specific fresh solutions to track the radiation absorbed by any patient who has visited medical technologists to carry out imaging.

These solutions can be represented by different types of storage-systems:

1) medical data management systems that deal with patient registration and records management;

2) healthcare content management systems – so-called databases to store imaging info;

3) CRM systems that are applied not only by businessmen to boost sales, but also by medical staff to control patients’ personal data;

4) electronic health record systems (EHR).

These solutions are all great if we mean their implementation in hospitals, but only doctors will have access to the data. Every person should know the influence of modern medical technologies on their organism, so, such information should be available for patients themselves, and not only for the technologists who conduct imaging.

Of course, the data could be sent to patients via email or via mobile message, but it wouldn’t be as secure or efficient, as users will lack their tests history. Taking into account the fact that users spend 90% of their time in apps, compared to the mobile Web, and that they download on average 8.8 apps per month, a mobile app may become an irreplaceable aid and a handy solution, posing a challenge to specialists in custom healthcare apps development.

One app to help them all

Effectively, it would look like a personal “diary” of dangerous imaging tests, a kind of card proposed by the FDA (see above), but in this case a digital one. This personal record card in the form of an app should contain the following information:

– type of imaging;

– visit date;

– hospital, technologist’s name;

– amount of radiation absorbed per procedure;

– total amount of radiation (absorbed during the previous visits);

– amount of radiation left for future visits (within a year).

This app should be integrated with the hospital database to double and update the information available for physicians. Additionally, such an app could include a Q&A section, with which patients would get answers and explanations to common procedures/terms. Patients will also need a user friendly interface and a vivid demonstration of the absorbed dose in comparison with that obtained in the environment (space radiation, radiation from sunbathing, etc.).  


IT could offer solutions for tracking radiation doses absorbed by patients

Medicine is certainly a complicated field. Doctors need to take into account all the risks different procedures entail and do detailed reports for patients who have the right to know everything about their health, especially when it comes to the above mentioned radiation imaging tests. Here, IT specialists could be instrumental in aiding medical technology to systematically collect and analyze vital information and data.

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Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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