The establishment of a medical 3D imaging lab provides transformative healthcare to the medical community by bolstering diagnostic precision, facilitating customized treatment strategies, and propelling breakthroughs in medical research. By providing dedicated teams of technologists and software experts, 3D imaging labs ensure data is processed promptly and accurately, maximizing the diagnostic value of images; and acting as intermediaries between imaging technology and medical professionals.
The journey toward creating such a facility is challenging and intricate in nature, requiring the convergence of expertise from a variety of industries. Below, we present an overview of the process entailed in constructing a 3D lab. It is important to acknowledge that each medical center’s prerequisites and directives are unique and should be considered during of such an endeavor.
(Right): Marc Sofilos and Kristy Bogart working on a case in the 3DQ Lab.
Starting a medical imaging lab requires a clear and compelling demand for its services. Without a demonstrated need, the lab’s sustainability and success could be at risk. The process begins with recognizing the necessity for additional or improved imaging capabilities within a medical facility. This demand can arise from factors such as increased patient volume, the introduction of new medical procedures, advancements in imaging technology, or the desire to enhance diagnostic accuracy. Below are two common pathways that may increase demand:
(Right): 3DQ Lab testimonials resulting from fulfilling a demand that was previously unanswered.
Unmet clinical needs:
Engaging medical professionals may unveil gaps in existing imaging services that a 3D imaging lab could address. Such scenarios could involve situations where 3D reconstructions offer insights surpassing traditional 2D imaging. Assessing a medical center’s patient demographics, especially those with complex anatomical variations or conditions, might reveal an area that could benefit from advanced imaging. In cases like these, 3D imaging can complement a radiologist’s expertise, increasing the volume of patients the radiologist may assist.
The demand for clinical 3D image processing labs emerges from various factors, notably the integration of advanced imaging tools such as high-resolution scanners. Hospitals embrace these technologies to enhance diagnostics and treatment strategies, yet radiologists can face challenges in managing the escalating data influx. In medical centers with a frequent utilization of high-resolution scans or intricate procedures, the need for precise 3D reconstructions becomes pronounced.
Staff and Software
The establishment of a successful clinical 3D image processing lab hinges on two fundamental pillars: assembling the right staff and selecting the appropriate software. These crucial components form the backbone of a lab’s functionality, enabling the transformation of raw medical imaging data into valuable diagnostic insights.
Strategies for Identification:
• Collaboration: Collaborate with radiologists, medical professionals, and IT experts to identify the specific skill sets needed for the lab’s success.
• Networking: Attend conferences, workshops, and events related to medical imaging and technology. This provides opportunities to connect with potential staff and explore software options.
• Vendor Research: Research reputable software vendors that specialize in medical imaging. Evaluate their offerings, read user reviews, and assess their track record in supporting clinical 3D image processing.
(Right): Processing of a facial trauma case using selected medical software.
Central to the lab’s success is assembling a skilled workforce, including radiologic technologists, administrators, IT specialists, and software experts. The lab staff serves as the pivot point, aligning medical knowledge with technological prowess.
• Radiologic Technologists: These individuals bridge the gap between medical knowledge and technological implementation. Their understanding of medical procedures and anatomical nuances ensures that the acquired data is processed accurately and meaningfully.
• Administrators: Efficient management of orders, work assignments, and communication is essential. Administrators ensure that the lab’s workflow remains smooth and organized, optimizing resource allocation and timely processing.
• IT and Software Specialists: Given the technological nature of the lab, IT professionals are integral. Their proficiency in software, databases, and networking ensures that the lab’s operations are supported by a robust technical infrastructure.
Selecting the right imaging software is paramount. Volumetric, FDA-cleared, and vendor-supported software is essential. Anticipating future needs is crucial, ensuring the chosen software can adapt to evolving requirements.
• Volumetric and FDA-Cleared: The software should be capable of handling volumetric data, converting 2D medical images into 3D reconstructions. Moreover, FDA clearance ensures that the software adheres to regulatory standards and safety guidelines.
• Vendor Support: Opt for software with dedicated vendor support. This ensures that technical issues are addressed promptly, updates are rolled out seamlessly, and the software remains compatible with evolving imaging technologies.
• Anticipating Future Needs: Select software that not only meets current requirements but also has the potential to accommodate future demands. As medical imaging evolves, the software should be capable of adapting and expanding its capabilities.
An efficient ordering system for is vital for the effectiveness of any 3D imaging lab. A well-organized ordering process reduces delays and misunderstandings, guaranteeing swift assignment and processing of imaging requests. This process integrates avenues for medical professionals to provide justifications, methodologies, and specific needs, leading to precise and targeted image processing. Through tailored order assignments, the lab optimizes workforce allocation, ensuring the appropriate skills are applied to each task.
(Right): Example portion of an ordering guide.
Strategies for Efficiency:
• Web-Based Platforms: Utilize web-based platforms that provide a user-friendly interface for medical professionals to submit orders, track progress, and access results.
• Automation: Incorporate automation where possible. For instance, integrate the lab’s workflow management system with the hospital’s existing systems for seamless order assignment and tracking.
• Communication Channels: Implement efficient communication channels for any queries or clarifications related to orders. This prevents unnecessary delays and ensures smooth progress.
Effective data management entails establishing a centralized database to reduce data fragmentation risk. Implementing a structured data management system enhances organization and accessibility through categorization by patient information, imaging mode, and acquisition date. Regular data backup and recovery procedures safeguard valuable information. Strong data encryption protocols ensure patient privacy and compliance with regulations. Attaching relevant metadata enriches data context for comprehensive understanding and management.Effective data management ensures compliance with strict medical data regulations like HIPAA, safeguarding privacy and security.
Data management involves several challenges. Medical imaging data often swells in volume, with high-resolution images necessitating extensive storage. Multiple formats, such as DICOM and NIfTI, demand compatibility and uniformity for processing and storage. Ensuring the security of sensitive patient information against breaches and unauthorized access is a critical concern. Moreover, seamless integration of data into the lab’s workflow is vital, enabling accessible processed images for relevant medical professionals.
Standardized protocols form the core of a clinical 3D image processing lab’s workflow, providing a structure for uniform practices that align tasks with predefined guidelines. Protocol guidelines should be accessible to all involved technologists, and should include example case studies, related research, videos for complex software/clinical variations, and guidance for conditional aspects that trigger alternative workflows. Their advantages include consistent performance, upholding quality benchmarks, streamlining operations, and enabling seamless collaboration among lab staff, radiologists, and medical professionals.
(Right): Example portion of a protocol.
How to implement protocols:
• Documented Procedures: Translate insights into detailed, step-by-step procedures that encompass instructions and task considerations.
• Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Develop comprehensive SOPs spanning the lab’s entire workflow, serving as a reference guide.
• Training: Equip all lab staff with protocol knowledge to ensure consistent and accurate execution.
• Regular Review: Evolve protocols in line with advancements in medical imaging technology and incorporate the latest methodologies.