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We spoke with PD Dr. Daniel Pinto dos Santos, Co-Coordinator of the In Focus program at ECR 2024, to learn more about innovation that will be presented at the meeting later this month in Vienna.

What can you tell us about Innovation in Focus?

The central theme of ECR 2024 is “Next Generation Radiology”. This motto is also reflected in the lectures and events in our program. We will be focusing on the latest developments in equipment technology, advanced software applications, and the integration of artificial intelligence. The next generation of radiologists will undoubtedly have to deal even more intensively with technological innovations. Our aim with the Innovation in Focus program is to familiarize radiologists of all ages with technology’s new opportunities. We want to ensure they acquire the knowledge and skills required to use new technologies effectively and to improve patient care quality.

PD Dr. Daniel Pinto dos Santos is a consultant radiologist and assistant professor of radiology at the University Hospital of Cologne and the University Hospital of Frankfurt, with a particular interest in imaging informatics and abdominal imaging.

Artificial intelligence is viewed by some radiologists as a double-edged sword. What are your thoughts on the topic?

That’s a view that I can certainly understand. The integration of AI has the potential to impact our field of work significantly. But it will be important to understand where AI can achieve positive results while always keeping an eye on the risks and possible limitations. Most importantly, this requires a deep awareness and some understanding of the technology on the part of radiologists to recognize potential sources of error.

I think we should neither be skeptics of innovation nor blindly enthusiastic about it but rather develop a balanced view. Knowledge of the technology is necessary to understand how it works, analyze its potential applications, and simultaneously avoid potential dangers. Its use should be targeted and subject to clear rules to generate tangible benefits.

How do innovations in medical imaging contribute to the trend of personalized medicine, and how does this affect treatment planning and patient outcomes?

Innovations in medical imaging play a crucial role in the trend toward personalized medicine, primarily through AI and advanced analytical techniques. With a growing number of specific treatment options for tumor diseases, understanding and considering individual patient characteristics is becoming increasingly important.

Traditionally, studies often look at averages for an entire patient group without delving into individual differences. This is where modern technologies come in. Through improved use and data analysis, we can now identify specific subgroups for whom certain treatments are particularly or less effective. This allows medicine to be more finely tuned to individual needs. For example, the idea of the digital twin, as presented in some program sessions, aims to personalize treatment based on detailed, patient-specific data. AI algorithms help recognize patterns in the data and provide this information to treating physicians to enable more precise and effective patient care.

Looking ahead, what challenges do you anticipate in adopting new technologies in medical imaging, and what future directions do you envision?

I think there are several challenges in the introduction of new technologies in medical imaging – many of which we can certainly overcome. For example, while studies may show that a new device is technically superior to another device, as radiologists, we should also prove that these technologies improve patient well-being or outcomes. Combining this with the fact that innovation cycles are often shorter than investment cycles, introducing new technologies can be difficult, especially when the impact on outcome is not clear.

Again, it is about a balanced approach to innovations. We should not mindlessly follow every trend but to evaluate innovations objectively and ensure that they serve our patients. Medicine must not be a luxury good – we have to be careful with our resources and therefore it is imperative to base investment decisions on clear evidence to ensure the best possible patient care.

Why should ECR visitors attend the Innovation in Focus sessions, and what insights will they gain?

The Innovation in Focus sessions at ECR are informative and represent the cutting edge of current developments. They allow attendees to discuss and place the latest innovations in the broader context. These sessions aim to help attendees follow technological and medical innovations and evaluate them calmly and critically. The focus is on understanding how and when new developments can be used for patients’ benefit. I hope that attendees will find it an excellent opportunity to develop an inspiring yet balanced view of the exciting new technologies on the horizon.