Royal College of Radiology (RCR) president Kath Halliday (Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham, UK) gave a presentation to the British Society of Interventional Radiology (BSIR) annual scientific meeting (2–4 November, Glasgow, UK) exploring how new technologies and infrastructural reforms can improve outcomes for patients under interventional radiology (IR) department care. Drawing attention to the problems with IR practice in the National Health Service (NHS), particularly with regard to capacity, she suggested harnessing artificial intelligence (AI), collecting data and recourse to dedicated day case units and hybrid theatres could reduce waiting times and drive more effective interventions.
She drew attention to the fact that “there are no data” widely available on IR procedures. The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme reviews services and procedure outcomes across the NHS but, Halliday said, provides little in the way of information on the outcomes of IR procedures. “We need to be able to identify IR procedures from our radiology codes,” she argued, stating that these in turn need to link to the codes used in Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), a database of NHS admissions records covering comorbidities, length of stay and outcomes.
According to Halliday, a similar problem exists in informing patients of their options around IR procedures, as those who present the information are often not radiologists themselves. Often, this is due to a lack of a dedicated area within radiology departments in which to see patients. Integrating IR procedures into a more comprehensive data management system means interventional radiologists and their patients can make more informed decisions about procedures. This will also require improvements to NHS IT infrastructure, Halliday suggests.
Capacity was another focus of Halliday’s talk. She described how “lack of capacity too often results in poor outcomes for patients,” adding that “for instance, some people wait so long for angioplasty that they end up with amputation,” then referring to the situation in some hospitals where capacity is so limited that radiologists are forced to come in to perform procedures when they are not on call. Improving capacity is difficult because those radiologists required to teach trainees are already overworked, she argued. It would also require creating a more hospitable workplace in terms of morale and working hours to encourage radiologists to stay in the field. For a technology-driven solution Halliday pointed to procedure simulators, which are still underused in training new radiologists. AI would also be useful for diagnostics in IR—though she said she did not believe robots would be performing procedures any time soon.
Halliday concluded the question and answer that followed her presentation by advocating for expanded IR training.