Putting Medical Imaging and Healthcare Reform Together

2011-06-09
 

Medical Imaging and health reformThe medical imaging profession “devotes an extraordinary amount of its energy to fighting off incursions into its turf by other disciplines and not enough energy to expanding imaging’s technical capacity and usefulness,” says Jeff Goldsmith in a recent article in HealthImaging.com.

Goldsmith, an Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, thinks that radiologists and other medical imaging professionals need to think differently about their profession in order to effectively meet future demands. In particular, he thinks that micro-imaging (even at the molecular level) has yet to meet its full potential as a diagnostic tool and that typical diagnostic technologies should be seen as potentially therapeutic (such as high-intensity focused ultrasound). Such advances require medical imaging professionals to think outside the “radiology is only about imaging” box and the “radiologists don’t have anything to do with medicinal chemists” box.

In short, the future will demand lots of new specialties, sub-specialties, and partnerships from the medical imaging world.

Healthcare reform will also demand outside-the-box thinking from radiologists and other medical imaging professionals.

One focus of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 is the creation of accountable care organizations (ACO), which will essentially move away from the standard fee-for-service model and toward one that is outcome-based.

What do ACOs mean for medical imaging professionals? Goldsmith suggests the following:

  • Bundled or a “one-payment-for-all-radiology-services” payments
  • Increased vigilance over unnecessary testing and re-testing
  • Innovation that narrows diagnostic uncertainty and reduces the need for medical imaging
  • Increased demand for radiologists and other medical imaging professionals to justify their work

The medical imaging world has always had plenty of work to do. If Goldsmith is right, that won’t change any time soon.

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