Advances in technology will continue at a relentless pace, with imaging devices becoming both more complex and expensive -- meaning the use of more hybrid devices -- as well as less complex and less expensive -- meaning more single-organ and "defeatured" devices created for a single purpose, Thrall told AuntMinnie.com in an email.
Phase-contrast x-ray imaging, which analyzes changes in the x-ray beam as it passes through tissues to create images, is on the way, along with laser-stimulated ultrasound imaging, according to Thrall, who is chairman emeritus of the radiology department at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"Second-generation IT utility programs will help make radiologists more productive and will help improve quality of care and quality of work life," Thrall said. "Data mining will be used to turn data into knowledge. Decision-support systems will deliver just-in-time knowledge to referring providers and radiologists at the point of care."
Look for parametric analysis using concepts of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and deep-learning tools to unlock information in images that is not perceptible to the radiologist.
Three categories of innovation will shape future directions in radiology: continued development of imaging technologies; parallel developments in infrastructure, most importantly in computer analytics and information and communications systems; and the development and application of the imaging correlates of precision medicine. Among the new challenges that lurk, complexity in radiology practice will rise, increasing educational requirements, especially in parametric imaging, according to Thrall.