A dedicated 3D service can improve patient care and enhance operational efficiency. Building and operating such a service requires a significant investment in staff, equipment, information technology (IT), space, overhead and other expenses; however, both improving care and realizing a return on investment (ROI) on these expenditures is often a result of two underappreciated activities: 3D protocol development and training.
3D Protocols. For radiologists to become confident that a 3D service will consistently deliver clinically relevant views, a 3D service needs to develop comprehensive 3D protocols. The 3D protocols detail the specific views, as defined by the radiologists and referring clinicians, to be generated by 3D supertechs to answer particular clinical questions. The 3D protocols should be standardized, to improve reliability and quality, and developed in tandem with the scan protocols, to generate optimized data sets.
Training. 3D supertechs require substantial training to consistently deliver clinically relevant 3D images. At Massachusetts General Hospital, a new 3D supertech will receive about 12 months of intensive and specialized training in 3D anatomy, pathology, and technical applications of 3D, before they are qualified to perform all of the standard 3D protocols.
As advanced visualization equipment continues to improve, scanners evolve, and new clinical applications are developed, a 3D service needs to develop new 3D protocols, refresh existing 3D protocols, and provide specialized ongoing training.
Utilizing a trusted dedicated 3D service allows radiologists and technologists to focus on their primary tasks. In the time it takes to generate an advanced 3D workup, a radiologist could read 3-4 additional exams and a technologist could scan an additional patient. Both of these efficiency gains can easily cover the cost of a dedicated 3D.
By focusing on 3D protocols and training, a 3D Service will build confidence among the radiologists, improve operational efficiency, and most importantly enhance patient care.