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Q&A with Dr. Michael Recht

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | February 24, 2016
From the January/February 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: How can big data analytic skills and comparative effectiveness techniques demonstrate the value and critical role of imaging?
You need to look at a large amount of data. Imaging is big data in and of itself — we’re talking about a significant amount of data when you’re looking at an MR scan, a PET/CT scan or a PET/MR scan. PET/MR is a new hybrid modality wherein the equipment is very expensive and the question everyone is asking is, “Does it make a difference?” Should we be buying this equipment? If we buy this equipment, what are the applications that we should be using it for? What are the conditions we are using it for?

You need to do a large amount of analysis of the imaging data, and in addition you have to look at data that’s in the electronic medical record. Imaging tends to be an indirect effect, so it’s not like surgery, where you go to surgery and immediately know whether the patient does better or not. In imaging, you do an imaging test but then it takes a long time to learn the outcome of the patient. That imaging test might lead to surgery, medical care or drug therapy. There are a number of different outcomes that are possible, based on the imaging exam. You need to be able to get all of that data, collate it, curate it and analyze it so you can actually come out with definitive answers as to which type of imaging really has the most beneficial effect on the patient’s outcome.

HCB News: Can you briefly describe what your two programs will involve?
We created a two-tiered program. The first tier is an introduction to big data and comparative effectiveness and we wanted to make sure that every resident had a chance to learn the basics. The way we accomplish that is to use an American Institute of Radiologic Pathology course, which is run by the ACR. Essentially, every resident in America goes to this four week course and almost all of the residents in Canada go, as well as several residents from outside of North America.

We are going to be giving eight hours of introductory lectures on big data and comparative effectiveness to all of the residents that go to the AIRP course. We know that these eight hours aren’t going to teach people the skills so they can go out and do comparative effectiveness research or analyze big data, but what we are trying to do in a sense is whet their appetite and introduce them to these subjects. The second tier is geared toward junior and mid-career faculty. This set of courses is geared to giving imagers tools to enable them to do research — not to become experts in the field — but to really be able to start doing some research.

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