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Beyond referrals: The rise of in-house cardiac imaging in modern cardiology

January 16, 2024
Dr. Alberto Morales
By Dr. Alberto Morales

Recognizing that fewer than 5% of U.S. patients who need cardiac CT scans receive them when needed, I decided to take a different approach. Aware of the shifts in cardiology and realizing the potential of advanced imaging technologies, I recognized a clear need for a more straightforward and patient-focused diagnostic process.

The traditional approach, which makes use of external referrals and involves multiple healthcare facilities, hinders both efficiency and the overall patient experience. For providers, the decision to refer patients out for imaging often comes with a cost — not just in terms of added burden for patients, but also missed revenue opportunities.

Recognizing the necessity for a more integrated and accessible solution to cardiovascular healthcare, I envisioned a model of in-house cardiac imaging that would redefine patient care and set a standard for cardiology's future. The implementation of in-house cardiac imaging streamlined patient care, improved efficiency and personalized services, as well as increased patient motivation and compliance.

Charting the advancement of cardiac imaging
Nearly a decade ago, I completed an advanced cardiac imaging fellowship at the University of South Florida. During that period, I developed a sense of how advanced imaging will shape the future of cardiology. Recognizing the community's needs, I gave lectures and worked on building a program and referral network with other hospitals and cardiology groups.

Since the introduction of 64-slice scanners in the early 2000s, CT imaging of the heart has evolved significantly, with later scanners offering higher speeds, increased volume coverage, and enhanced capabilities. The non-invasive procedure does not require hospitalization and is well tolerated by most patients.

Modern scanners and techniques have reduced radiation and contrast agent doses to modest levels. High-resolution anatomical images of the heart and coronary arteries are useful in identifying various heart diseases and conditions, while a considerable number of invasive catheterizations often fail to identify significant obstructions. The need for such interventions can be mitigated through prior CT imaging of the coronaries.

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