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Six markers on the roadmap to better coordinated medical-imaging research

by Gail Kalinoski , Contributing Reporter
Advancing high-value imaging is the main theme and goal of a report by a group established by the National Science and Technology Council to coordinate federal investments in medical imaging research, and develop a road map for future research and developments targeting that goal.

The Interagency Working Group on Medical Imaging was created in 2015 by the NSTC in response to interest by Congress in biomedical research and the role medical imaging plays in developing and deploying new technologies for patient care. Many federal agencies fund medical imaging research or play important roles in deployment of research to support patient care.

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The group identified six objectives that, according to its report, should serve as a guide to federal research and development activities to generate better value for patients and optimize health care outcomes and costs.

Here are the objectives:

Standardize image acquisition and storage. This objective has two steps: coordinate the development and adoption of standard operating procedures for collecting, annotating and archiving medical imaging data and establish approaches for curating, storing and providing access to data that has been verified and validated.

Apply big data and data science concepts to medical imaging. Using new analytic approaches like machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence that “can identify disease subtypes and correlations with known genetic and metabolic pathways.” The report notes that these may catch relationships that a human might not discover. The data can be organized with other information into a comprehensive diagnostic “cockpit” and be tailored to treat and manage each patient.

Get to diagnosis more quickly and cost-effectively. Future research should aim for protocols that decrease scanner time and improve work flow, and combine them with new medical imaging techniques that provide earlier diagnoses and lower costs.

Make imaging more accessible. Reduced costs and increased portability will help smaller clinics and research centers and give patients more access.

Promulgate improved imaging practices. In other words, more education and training for those using the new technology that is driving imaging practices. The report states priorities include sharing that knowledge and developing the skills to effectively use the latest medical-imaging operations.

Improve translation of new imaging technologies. This really means increased collaboration among federal agencies during the developmental stage of new technologies to accelerate the move from transition to the lab and finally marketplace. Improving coordination between the federal entities may “reveal new ways to best leverage limited resources.”

The working group noted the report is the result of discussions, information and input to date, from medical-imaging stakeholders, including patient advocacy groups, and government representatives. The members stated they will continue to develop more recommendations to reach these objectives over the coming months.

The report was prepared by: working group co-chair Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health; Richard Cavanaugh, also a group co-chair and the director of the Special Programs Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Jerry Sheehan, assistant director for scientific data and information at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Michael Cheetham, senior advisor in the Office of the Director at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

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