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The Future of Digital Imaging

Traditionally, radiology is a support department that provides imaging services to other hospital departments. In this conventional framework, the primary concerns of a radiology department were how to enhance the productivity of imaging workflows. Most efforts have been made principally to remove unnecessary communications and thereby reduce report turnaround time. The introduction of information systems such as PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) and RIS (Radiology Information System) are typical examples of such efforts.

Over the past decades, imaging technologies have advanced remarkably, and have led to the proliferation of digital imaging services. Many imaging solution providers are offering various off-the-shelf software programs at more affordable prices. Those programs are equipped with sophisticated imaging functions, and can easily manipulate the large amounts of image data generated from high-performance imaging modalities. As a result, the number of imaging centers providing diagnostic imaging services has grown considerably, and competition between them has intensified.

In this evolving environment, enhanced productivity of imaging workflow is not sufficient to guarantee a competitive and successful imaging business. Rather, more diversified perspectives of customer satisfaction must be considered, and technological advancements must be leveraged for the quality and the competitiveness as well as the productivity of imaging services.

In this article, we envision digital imaging services in radiology, with emphasis on the recent advancements in digital imaging technology and its future direction. Specifically, we focus on the four major issues prevailing in current imaging business practices: specialization, flexibility, reliability, and usability. We investigate the kinds of technologies pertaining to each issue, as well as the ways in which such technologies have enabled the invention of innovative services in diagnostic imaging practice.

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