The eHealth Readiness of Australia's Allied Health Sector - Final Report

Radiographers and sonographers

Page last updated: 30 May 2011

Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group


Description of profession

A radiographer is responsible for producing high quality medical images that assist medical specialists and practitioners to describe, diagnose, monitor and treat a patients injury or illness. Much of the medical equipment used to gain the images is highly technical and involves state of the art computerisation.

A radiotherapist utilises sophisticated imaging equipment and advanced computer systems to create a treatment plan to deliver the optimum dose to the tumour, specific to a particular patient and their diagnosis whilst minimising the dose delivered to healthy tissue. The radiation therapist will deliver the planned treatment with the same accuracy and precision using highly sophisticated computer-controlled equipment.

A sonographer is a highly-skilled professional who uses specialized equipment to create images of structures inside the human body that are used by physicians to make a medical diagnosis.

Number12,000 radiographers in Australia in total, including 9000 diagnostic radiographers, 2,000 radiation therapy technicians and 900-1,100 nuclear medicine technicians.27

4,500 qualified accredited sonographers28

(2006 Census recorded 9,917)

Gender mix80% female, 20% male (radiographers and radiation therapists)

77% female, 23% male (sonographers)


EXHIBIT 62 - Distribution by Age and State


distribution by age and location - radiographers and sonographersD

EXHIBIT 63 - Overview of practice attributes


overview of respondent practice attributes for radiographers and sonographersD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • Professional entry to diagnostic radiography / medical imaging in Australia may involve:
    • Completion of an accredited 3-year undergraduate medical imaging/diagnostic radiography Bachelor degree followed by completion of the Professional Development Year program.
    • Completion of an accredited 4-year undergraduate medical imaging/diagnostic radiography Bachelor degree.
    • Completion of an accredited 2-year graduate entry medical imaging/diagnostic radiography Master degree followed by completion of the Professional Development Year program.
  • It is only possible to study sonography as a postgraduate following a degree in radiography, nuclear medicine, biomedical science or nursing – it requires at least a further two years at university. All sonography training is accredited by the Australasian Sonographer Accredition Registry (ASAR), and continuing education and CPD is provided online by the ASA.
  • Registration is required for medical radiation practitioners in Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Medical radiation practice is expected to be included in NRAS from 1 July 2012.29

Funding and referral system

Radiographers, radiation therapists and sonographers work as salaried employees in either public hospitals or in private radiology practices.

Peak National Body

The national peak body for radiographers and radiation therapists is the Australian Institute of Radiography (AIR). Their membership base includes many sonographers.
Australian Institute of Radiography
Websitewww.air.asn.au

Address

25 King Street
Melbourne 3000

PO Box 16234
Collins Street West
VIC 8007

Contacttel: +61 3 9419 3336

fax: +61 3 9416 0783

email: info@air.asn.au


The national peak body for sonographers is the Australian Sonographers Association (ASA).
Australian Sonographers Association
Websitewww.a-s-a.com.au

Address

PO Box 709
Moorabbin, Victoria, 3189

4/350 Charman Rd
Cheltenham, Victoria, 3189

Contactphone: 03 9585 2996

fax: 03 9585 2331

email: admin@a-s-a.com.au


Radiographers, sonographers and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that radiographers, radiation therapists and sonographers could benefit from include:
  • Electronic transfer and storage of diagnostic scans (and associated notes)
  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Digital referrals and electronic health records

Current eHealth 'Position'

Radiographers and radiation therapists are have very high technical competence. Most are adept at using computers and new technology both personally and professionally, and consider themselves early adopters. They have lead the charge for the AIR to adapt to new technology and now all CPD, exams and audits are provided online.

Areas in which radiographers could potentially use more technology are in contributing to the health record which currently does occur through the PACS system and for Radiation therapists through the medical records and electronic treatment sheet systems which are all now online,. To this could be added flagging areas on images to which the radiologist should give particular attention (‘red dots’), and safety initiatives around the ‘minimum dose, maximum quality’ principle. There is an issue that digital imaging makes it more difficult to detect when someone has taken numerous unnecessary films, this should always be monitored as standards are in place.

Training and supervision of rural and regional radiographers also takes place online - this is achieved with Government funding but this is somewhat limited by poor bandwidth and slow systems.

Sharing information in online communities and discussing images in online forums are very important and popular activities among radiographers.

In contrast, although sonographers use cutting edge equipment in their work, this does not always translate into computer literacy in other areas, and this cannot be assumed. Rapid progress in acquisition of computer skills has occurred because of the prevalence of digital imaging and the need to use the associated systems and records electronically. According to the ASA, the participation of sonographers in any universal eHealth system will be essential because they are often on call, and in some rural areas they are the only health professional that may see the patient before a problem is detected. Teleradiology is often used now so that the reporting radiologist is not on site and may be miles away. They will definitely need to access the past medical history in the PCEHR to ensure the correct process for scanning is followed. They are somewhat concerned about how responsibilities will be allocated with the PCEHR ie who will be responsible for uploading what information.

There is some concern about where sonographers will fit in to the whole eHealth ecosystem as devised by the Government. They have been told that they will not need to use the health identifiers and that the radiologists would own these, however the peak body does not understand how this will work. It is a problem for them as radiologists would have to do enter the identifiers hundreds of times and this could become a bottleneck, also there are no radiologists in rural Australia. Also sonographers work in multiple sites and this should be taken account of in the system.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • As expected, radiographers and sonographers exhibited the highest patient throughput (34% saw more than 25 patients per day) and 68% work in a single practice. 21% practice at least occasionally in a rural or remote region.
  • The dominant use of computers for radiographers and sonographers is to support administration (90% use for patient booking and scheduling, 87% for patient billing and rebates). 68% of radiographers and sonographers use a computer to view diagnostic imaging, while a further 13% don’t currently use a computer, but would like to. Education and training are facilitated (58% responded they use online CPD) as is viewing and recording of patient information (49% use a computer to enter patient notes after a consultation, a further 19% would like to). Collaboration for process communications are surprisingly absent (19% use a computer to send or receive referrals, while a further 45% would like to).
  • Telehealth adoption amongst radiographers and sonographers is advanced, with 27% already using telehealth in some form. Of the 73% who do not currently use telehealth, 15% expect they will be using these solutions within 3 years. Interest in telehealth amongst radiographers and sonographers is entirely in training (8% very interested), supervision (5%) and collaboration (4%), with no interest in patient applications, as expected given their reliance on specialist equipment.
  • Computer use for record storage is prevalent amongst radiographers and sonographers. 13% of psychologists rely solely on paper records, and 23% have all patient records on computer. Of the 87% using some form of computer records, 69% reported they use an EHR. While 85% strongly agreed most practitioners in their network use computers, just 41% strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record.
  • The three leading benefits perceived amongst radiographers and sonographers are improving practice efficiency (40% strongly agree), collaboration (38%), and continuity of care (37%).
  • The top barriers to eHealth adoption for radiographers and sonographers are technological – 44% strongly agree the need to maintain compatibility with existing IT systems is a barrier, 29% that they prefer to wait for established technology, 28% that the need to connect with external systems is a barrier.
  • The two leading influences for radiographers and sonographers are financial incentives (43%) and the advice of their professional body (39%).

27Australian Institute of Radiography.
28Australian Sonographers Association
29Sonographers will not be included.