Can India emerge as a hub for outsourced teleradiology services?

December 14, 2020

As countries outsource their imaging requirements. India can leverage its pool of skilled radiologists, advanced technology and infrastructure to bridge this demand and supply gap

The rapid technological advancements in the healthcare domain has opened up vast opportunities in the radiology industry for remote reporting. These have increased the demand for interpretation of diagnostic and imaging services, especially with the new generation of tech-savvy radiologists. As a result, the field of teleradiology is becoming quite popular in the healthcare segment.

While one can trace teleradiology back to 1929 when dental x-rays were transmitted to distant locations telegraphically, things have changed significantly since. Today, digitized images, which are not only limited to radiology, are transmitted across the globe via high-speed networks.

LACK OF TRAINED RADIOLOGISTS

Teleradiology concept was introduced due to the mismatch between the high demand and low availability of radiologists. Most countries are trying to fulfill the demand for radiology services in urban and rural areas due to the unavailability of in-house professionals.

This is witnessed even in developed countries like the US. Though an increasing number of scans are performed here, there persists a shortage of radiologists to report the imaging studies. It has been being reported that in the UK, a radiology report takes about an average of 21 days to be signed off from the time the images are obtained.

This delay has serious implication on patient care and might escalate treatment cost. In 2019, the UK and Ireland had an estimated seven radiologists per 100,000 people, which is particularly low compared to the European average (13 radiologists per 100,000 people) and the US (11 per 100,000). It has been observed that the lack of availability of timely diagnostic services causes great problems for medical professionals during emergencies and night hours.

INDIA: SET TO BRIDGE THE GAP

The global teleradiology market size is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 18.4% from 2019 to 2026. Currently hospitals in the USA, UK and Singapore are regularly outsource radiology reporting to countries in Europe and Asian, including India. All this because they need competent and timely professional help.

The immediate availability of diagnostic services is extremely important during medical emergencies. One reason for teleradiology’s growth is that most parts of the world do not have good radiological services and in-house personnel.

With teleradiology, this gap can be filled by using the help of more experienced personnel in the larger centers in the cities. Also, it is seen that not all imaging facilities have access to subspecialty expertise. For instance, complex cases in specific areas of radiology can be sent to experts for their opinion.

There are several reasons why India has distinct advantages when it comes to providing teleradiology services to organizations. Here are few:

1. Cost-effectiveness: It is one of the major factor for increased demand of radiology support from India. The cost of reporting a study by a radiologist is comparatively lower here compared to other countries.

2. Skilled team: India has an edge in being a forerunner in information technology and also skilled manpower other than clinicians to assist in teleradiology support. It also has a large pool of English speaking manpower which becomes easier during communication while providing effective support round-the-clock.

3. Policies: India has a positive policy environment when it comes to teleradiology. Today, the satisfaction of being a physician in India is unmatched. And, because of this positive policy environment, outsourcing teleradiology work to India becomes extremely easy.

4. Technology and infrastructure: Indian teleradiology providers use known to use premium technology and infrastructure to ensure optimum quality with the best turnaround time. Even in complicated cases, it has become possible for organizations to interpret imaging studies in short turnaround time. This helps in providing fast diagnosis and immediate treatment to the one in need.

5. Time difference: India’s geographic positioning aids it in communication/interaction with other countries in need of the services. This also opens up opportunities for Indian radiologists for night-hawk services.

The huge gap between the demand and supply of radiologists worldwide and invention of advanced technology and infrastructure has presented several opportunities to Indian companies. They are well-positioned to fulfil outsourced services such as radiology interpretation while offering quality, cost-effectiveness and better turnaround time. It is time they gear up for it.