The switch from print to digital is heralded in most industries as a wonderful development. Going digital in the field of radiology created cost-effective expediency, but according to Dr. Frank Gaillard, it also invited a new approach to medical collaboration.
Radiology printing transitioned from film to computer monitors in 2005. It was efficient in a variety of ways to eliminate the physical collections of radiology imaging that we’re used to seeing over light boxes in radiology clinics and surgeons’ offices.
Dr. Gaillard saw an opportunity to develop a digital film library, originally designed to document and organise his personal collection from his practise as a neuroradiologist. In 2007, Dr. Gaillard released the Wikipedia-inspired database to the public.
By 2015, the full Radiopaedia database included 17,660 cases sorted into 7,636 articles, attracting 7 million unique site visits every month from every country in the world.
Radiopaedia has never been promoted as a resource for the general population, and Dr. Gaillard and his team are wary of the temptations and dangers of self-diagnosis. Nonetheless, Radiopaedia has more than 300,000 likes on its Facebook page and over 10,000 followers on Twitter.
With that many eyes on the site, Radiopaedia’s Managing Editor Andrew Dixon ensures that individual patients are not identifiable by the images shared in the database. Images on the site are jpegs, and are intentionally stripped of any identifying information or metadata.
As radiologists and doctors around the world share information, Radiopaedia continues to grow as a resource poised to revolutionise not only the medical information industry, but also global medical education and practise.
Traditional examples of medical information resources are not only difficult to share but can be exorbitantly expensive. Text books and case studies are often hidden behind the paywalls of information companies that make their money be charging for access to crucial medical findings. Dr. Gaillard told the ABC:
“Digital versions of those text books are just as expensive, and very carefully controlled because the whole infrastructure is built around monetising the restriction to access to information.”
According to Dr. Gaillard, that’s “not such a great thing”. Developing nations that can’t get access to radiology imaging for one reason or another make avid use of the access provided by Radiopaedia’s take on open source information. Doctors and radiologists in third world countries suddenly have access to volumes of new information, from the images themselves to equipment they may not have access to, and even diagnostic histories that improve their own medical practise.
“Aside from the selfish reasons you use the site, in terms of keeping your own case library and looking up things for your own study or work, the thing that’s come out of it is that in Australia we forget how lucky we are to have the sort of health system we do have.”