Innovation will be the dominant conversation at the upcoming ECR, which will take place on February 28 – March 3 in Vienna, Austria. We spoke with Professor Carlo Catalano, ESR President, about how radiologists can make the most of recent advances, and about Italy’s unique position in European medical research activity.
Technology will permeate ECR 2024’s program in unexpected ways, according to Catalano, from the Sapienza University of Rome, Policlinico Umberto I in Italy.
‘Plenary Lectures will look like TED Talks, which started as a technology conference, and the topics will surprise everyone,’ he said. ‘For example, we will explain how AI changes radiology from a clinician and company’s point of view.’
Technology will also be at the center of the Opening Ceremony, which will break up with tradition. ‘The ceremony will feature much shorter talks, and we will use new technology to talk about technology. It will be very surprising!’
Harnessing the power of new technology
Over the past decades, huge strides have been made in radiological technology, and more recently with AI.
‘Significant improvements are being made in speed and precision with AI,’ he said. ‘This means greater comfort for the patient and a possibility to better analyze imaging data.’
High-quality technology is coming out every day, but further improvements must not necessarily be made in hardware, he argued. ‘We need advances that are related to the way tools are being used.’
AI can help solve staff shortages, by speeding up processes and enabling professionals to focus on their patients, he suggested.
AI can also help radiologists make earlier and more confident diagnosis. ‘AI can really become a companion for us, providing real support and helping us increase the quality of our services.’
As the demand for imaging studies continues to grow worldwide, using solutions that enable radiologists to work faster and better makes more sense than ever. With the rising number of imaging examinations, other areas that could truly benefit from new technology are assessment of appropriateness and dose reduction, he added.
ECR2024 will display the latest offerings and possibilities not just with AI, but also promising technologies such as quantum computing, 3D printing and molecular imaging.
The Digital Twin concept, i.e. using all the different tools together with AI to get the best data from different sources, will become essential in the near future, Catalano believes.
‘The aim is to create an avatar or digital copy of each patient that can be utilized to take all decisions related to the specific patient,’ he explained. Similarities can be found with the aerospace industry, in which no one would now ever think to do experiments, tests and, as consequence, find the best solutions to problems – i.e. diseases – on real airplanes. Every decision is taken on simulators – the digital twins – and then applied in practice. A similar approach can be foreseen on patients.’
Along with Argentina and Singapore, Italy will take part in the ESR Meets program, shedding light on current advances and challenges in Italian radiology.
With 12,500 members, the Italian Society of Medical and Interventional Radiology (SIRM) is Europe’s largest national scientific society. This may explain why so many Italian radiologists attend ECR every year. Another reason might be that they actively contribute to European medical research, according to Catalano.
‘When we look at projects that receive grants from the EU, these are often led by radiologists coming from Italy, especially those projects where the shift towards medicine is moving more and more towards digital medicine,’ he said.
The Italian Digital Twins project, which focuses on the development of an Italian multiomics biobank, and includes 12 universities, the Italian National Institute of Health, five scientific research and treatment institutes, and six companies, is an example of research led by radiologists.
‘The network shares and develops knowledge, research, and innovative technologies in order to bring the Italian healthcare system into the contemporary era of precision medicine,’ Catalano concluded.