Radiographers will play ‘pivotal role’ in teleoperations, says EFRS

The European Federation of Radiographer Societies has released a statement on implementing remote imaging technologies

Published: 14 May 2024 Imaging

Radiographers must be involved in the development of remote imaging technologies, according to a statement released by the European Federation of Radiographer Societies.

Following previous discussions, the federation has been working together with the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT) to draft a joint statement on teleoperations.

It underscores the “pivotal role of radiographers in driving the successful implementation and utilisation of teleoperations”, a spokesperson for the federation said.

Teleoperations and imaging technology

Teleoperations is a broad term referring to the ability to operate imaging technologies remotely, an area with “potential for significant growth”, the joint statement said.

It emphasised that this technology is particularly relevant for facilities and countries where there may be a significant distance between the imaging equipment (typically CT and MRI scanners) and the radiographer, or where radiographers in the field wish to seek advice from more experienced colleagues located elsewhere. 

Teleoperations can also play a role in student training and application/technical support from equipment manufacturers. 

'Safe and effective implementation'

Charlotte Beardmore, executive director of professional policy for the SoR, said: “The safe and effective implementation of teleoperations is essential. The SoR has been part of a steering group ‘piloting’ the implementation of such technology across a number of imaging sites in England. This is a project sponsored by NHS England, the outcomes from this pilot programme are awaited but likely this year, we will share the learning with members once available, and with the EFRS and ISRRT.”

The EFRS, SoR, and ISRRT added that they will continue to work with national societies, other organisations, healthcare providers, industry and patient advocates to establish an evidence base and framework for the safe use of teleoperations and to inform policy on use.

It said: “We believe that radiographers must be at the centre of patient care: remote teleoperations will be a valuable solution in some cases, but it must be appropriately regulated and only used where a traditional model of direct interaction between patient-radiographer interaction is not possible. 

“Regardless of the role of teleoperation, the EFRS and the ISRRT affirm that radiographers must and will continue to play a key role in all areas of medical imaging, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. 

Alternative practice model

Both the EFRS and ISRRT said any procedure must be carried out by both trained and qualified remote and onsite radiographers, in close communication with each other.

It is calling for national legislation to be followed and authorised personnel should not be replaced by unqualified professionals. Teleoperations must not compromise quality and safety, and standard imaging requirements must be maintained.

Nonetheless, the technology represents an “alternative practice model” that could offer some patients better access to imaging, alternative working models for radiographers, or help to expand opportunities for staff recruitment, retention, education, training, continuing professional development and lifelong learning.

Transparency and safety

However, the role of the radiographer must be clearly defined in delivery of these services, and discussion must involve relevant professional bodies, regulators, service providers, vendors and patient representatives.

Transparency around potential safety issues – such as claustrophobia, protocol errors, screening incidents, and need for additional risk assessments – must also be addressed, alongside patient experience and outcomes

The statement added: “We call on national authorities to review their regulatory framework to ensure that these new working models are compatible with safe clinical practice and to engage in stakeholder discussions. 

“Clear responsibilities for those involved in teleoperations are of paramount importance and 
need to be well defined.”

(Image: Charlotte Beardmore)