RadiologyInfo.org, Approaching 15 and Going Strong!
"One of the things I realized...is how few success stories there are in websites or products or businesses that exist primarily for an altruistic purpose." — Andrew Mason, founder and former CEO of Groupon
Last month in this column I told you about a new website, RadiologyCentral.org, created by the ACR and the Intersociety Committee. Now I want to focus on a tremendous success story of collaboration between the ACR and RSNA in the form of a patient-education website: www.RadiologyInfo.org.
RadiologyInfo.org is a public information site dating back to the late 1990s.
At the January 1997 RSNA Board of Directors retreat, a discussion began on public information needs and the development of specifics projects to meet those needs. Plans included the expansion of the press release program at the Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, a radiology exhibit at the Walt Disney World EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida, and a public information site. The development of the public information site, called Radiology Resource, began in January 1999 and accelerated when plans were made to include a replica of the site at an information kiosk in the radiology exhibit at the EPCOT Center's Medicine's New Vision, scheduled to open in September 1999. Meanwhile, the ACR, through its Task Force on Public Information, was also pursuing a public information site. In July of 1999, as a result of discussions between Peggy K. Fritzsche, MD, RSNA board liaison, and Max Cloud, MD, ACR president, it was decided to collaborate on a public site (minutes of the ACR-RSNA Committee on the Public Information Website, Hyatt O'Hare, Chicago, February 20, 2000).
Although the exhibit at EPCOT is no longer in place, the decisions made at the 1997 retreat represented a new spirit of cooperation between the RSNA and the ACR.1
The site began operations with a committee composed of four members appointed by the RSNA Board of Directors and four members appointed by the chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors. Fifteen diagnostic studies were described on the site, and each was associated with an interactive drawing of the human body. Patients were told how the procedure worked, some common indications, and how to prepare for the exam. RSNA and ACR staff also played an integral role in the design, implementation, and maintenance of the site.
The site was advertised in ACR and RSNA publications, and soon the RadiologyInfo.org oversight committee began to grow. Radiation oncologists, medical physicists, and interventionalists were added.
About 20 additional examinations and procedures were added each year, and other additions to the website included a glossary and image gallery. The site was also translated into Spanish.
Currently, RadiologyInfo.org has 14 members on the oversight committee plus two co-chairs, Elliot K. Fishman, MD, FACR, representing RSNA, and Geoffrey D. Rubin, MD, FACR, representing the ACR. Additional volunteers fill in the medical advisory committee for the site. These diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, interventional radiologists, and nuclear medicine specialists number over 300. There are now more than 150 procedures and exams on the website, and readership has reached an average of 540,000 visitors per month, or over 7 million hits per year.
So where do we go from here? More languages in addition to English and Spanish are being considered, such as French, Portuguese, Japanese, and Chinese. "Spanish language viewers now represent nearly one-third of all views and visits. The most popular Your Radiologist Explains presentation is on CT abdomen and pelvis and has 5,025 views, 253 downloads, and 41,563 YouTube viewings," according to Rubin.
Here are some thoughts from Christoph Wald, MD, PhD, immediate past co-chair of RadiologyInfo.org:
In my mind, the proliferation of electronic health records with patient portals will create increasing demand from patients and opportunity for doctors to make sound and up-to-date information about imaging available to the consumer at the point of service. We are in the process of engaging with the EHR companies in this regard. This is exactly the kind of unbiased, noncommercial, and comprehensive content that has been developed over the past 15 years that stands to be the backbone of trustworthy electronic interaction with our patients in the information age. Not only does the website address imaging issues but it has also woven a robust radiation safety section, which addresses major public concerns and common questions about radiation in diagnostic imaging that primary doctors struggle to address due to time and knowledge constraints.
There are big plans for the coming months. A new strategic plan and multiple focus groups are in process to assess and redesign the site. Rubin and Fishman are leading these efforts. "The committee is committed to assuring that RadiologyInfo.org continues to establish itself as the source for information on medical imaging for the lay public," states Rubin.
1. Ellenbogen PH, Tashjian JH. “Radiology-Info: Reaching Out to Touch Patients.” JACR 2007;4(11):809–15.
By Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, Chair