Radiology Information Systems Among Solutions Easing Radiologist Challenges

2012-03-27
 

No One Said Change Would Be EasySince 1965, when Medicare was passed into law, debate has raged about a citizen’s right to health access, fairness, efficiency, cost, choice, value and quality. Every generation since has seen both market and governmental forces issue mandates which have either increased or decreased pressure for change within the healthcare industry. Reimbursements have influenced a large part of the debate. Today, radiologists are feeling the pain.

Solutions including automated benchmarking services and Radiology Information Systems (RIS) have helped radiology departments improve their performance, manage change and achieve success – but there is a still a long way yet to go.

Market Forces Creating New Reality for Radiologists

Many of the Baby Boomer generation have had to extend their working life due to the dramatic reductions in the stock market and losses in their retirement plans. The result has been delayed retirements which is having an adverse effect on the job market for young radiologists.

Private practices are also undergoing change. As more hospitals hire radiologists and buy in to radiology information systems more “capitated payment plans” are being used (a capitated payment plan is a set amount paid for each enrolled person assigned to that physician or group of physicians, whether or not that person seeks care, per period of time). In addition, there are growing pressures to have healthcare providers participate in “accountable” care organizations, according to Harolds et. al., in an article featured in Health Imaging Magazine.

Confidence among radiologists has undergone a sea change since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed into law which was designed, in part, to reduce costs. When we learn that 30 percent of all care in the U.S is considered unnecessary, we may forgive their cynicism. “They do not see a strategy to deal with the major sources of overutilization in imaging: self-referral and defensive medicine,” said the authors.

Governmental Forces Heap on More Pressure

Few people realize that the U.S. government is the largest private health insurance company in the world. While healthcare facilities are largely owned and operated by the private sector, the government now provides health insurance in the public sector, primarily. Spending provisions for the elderly, disabled, children, veterans and some of the poor represent 60-65% of healthcare provisions. Federal law also mandates public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay.

With statistics like this, it’s no surprise that reimbursements to the private sector are being challenged. The Deficit Reduction Act, calling for a sustainable growth rate and questioning multiple-procedure discounts for contiguous body parts, further tests a hospital groups’ ability to make a profit.

Managing Change Amidst Uncertainty

An old adage states, “The only constant is change.” According to John P. Kotter, PhD, professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School and chief innovation officer at Kotter International, radiologists should follow a multi-step change management plan that includes:

  • Establishing the immediacy and importance of change
  • Assembling a team of people to make the changes occur
  • Communicating the new vision to everyone the changes effect
  • Elimination of obstacles making it difficult for people to perform
  • Transforming the culture of the organization to keep the changes in place

Radiologists must be flexible in the uncertain times ahead for healthcare, medicine, research, our country and its economy, the authors said.

No one said change would be easy.

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