CLINICAL SERVICE SUPPORT
Many hospitals have a shortage of staff able to perform and report the imaging tests that their patients need. Supporting such hospitals with longer-term, on-site volunteers is an important way of creating sustainable collaborations for the future. At the same time it provides the much-needed experience for imaging professionals interested in Global Health Radiology, to gain a better understanding of local needs, challenges, diseases and the role of imaging in a setting so very different to their own. We aim to support well-planned and appropriate volunteering opportunities, led by the needs of our partners. Although indirect support via tele-radiology is also very helpful, it alone cannot replace the importance of having on-site skilled staff to support service development, training and as a local contact for remote assistance.
Diagnostic Radiology relies on images, such as X-rays, ultrasound, CT and MRI scans, to make a diagnosis. These images can be reviewed directly at the point of care, or they can be sent as digital files to a remote location. This is known as tele-radiology.
With the advancement of high-speed internet and cloud-based image reporting platforms, tele-radiology services have greatly expanded over the last decade. In resource limited settings, occasional advice by "friendly" overseas radiologists and radiographers via email or WhatsApp is increasingly common. While this may be the only available option for a rapid second opinion, it carries a risk from a data protection point of view and is not a sustainable solution for larger workloads.
Our aim to develop a secure, low cost tele-radiology platform to assist overseas departments with their image interpretation will allow a wider group of volunteer radiologists in the UK and abroad to participate in our organisation. For radiologists working in low and middle-income countries this remote support can provide opportunities for a second opinion and for a reduction in workload, freeing up time for education and research. It may also provide access to a specialist radiologist opinion for those clinicians in the field that do not have access to a radiologist on the ground, but do have internet access; in many countries X-rays are interpreted by medical staff with little radiology training.
In addition, such a platform can be used to provide reporting services for fee paying patients, providing a not-for profit sustainable funding stream to the organisation.
Clinical governance and Quality Assurance (QA)
It is well known that the quality of care and patient health outcomes are positively affected by good clinical governance and Quality Assurance. Building capacity around these elements of a diagnostic imaging service will therefore form an integral part of our clinical service support.