It’s said you can’t improve something unless you measure it. When you apply that maxim to the theme of this year’s RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago — “Beyond Imaging: Maximizing Radiology’s Role in Patient Care” — improving the contribution radiologists and radiology departments make to high-value patient care starts with measuring — or defining — what exactly their role is. That’s particularly important as the industry transitions to one dominated by value-based care models.
Radiologists’ Role Expands with Value-Based Care
I would define the role of radiologists and radiology departments in the value-based reimbursement era as twofold. First is the traditional part of the role. That’s capturing diagnostic images, reading the images correctly and sharing that information with physicians who use the information to make the appropriate treatment decisions for their patients. That role is as important as it ever was, but doing it well becomes even more so under value-based reimbursement models that pay clinicians based on how well they meet various clinical and financial performance measures.
The second part of the role is related to how radiologists and the radiology department integrate into the broader care workflows outside of the department, for example coordinating and collaborating with the broader patient care team during a patient’s entire episode of care. That means working with the care team up front to decide what diagnostic images need to be captured and interpreted. It means capturing the images, reading them correctly and sharing the information with the care team. It means discussing with the care team other clinical findings that were detected during an imaging procedure. And it means working with the care team to analyze and interpret all the findings to help determine the best treatment options for the patient and whether additional imaging procedures are needed.
Traditionally, radiology has optimized the former aspect of the role, i.e. reading images as efficiently as possible. However, value-based reimbursement plans are making it more important to improve care coordination that includes radiologists and radiology departments in order to drive better clinical and financial outcomes.
Technical, Financial and Clinical Role Support
Now that we’ve measured—or defined—radiology’s role in patient care in a value-based reimbursement world, how do we improve—or maximize—that role as the theme of this year’s RSNA meeting urges?
Radiologists and radiology departments can maximize their contribution to high-value patient care through technical, financial and clinical innovation.
- Technical innovation falls into two categories – increased automation and interoperability between radiology imaging systems and the enterprise information systems. In the first category, there are new imaging technologies that dramatically improve the diagnostic imaging capabilities of radiologists and radiology departments in terms of quantity, quality, and variety. Through automated technologies within the PACS, clinicians can process large volumes of images from various different acquisition sources and navigate through the images quickly to extract the right clinical information. In the second category, there are new PACS technologies that integrate with other patient information systems like EHRs, which provide radiologists with a comprehensive view of a patient’s entire medical record alongside the acquired images. These technologies also help the radiologist by providing intelligence around what information is important for the radiologist to review with the images, which allows for improved quality and reduced work time for the radiologists.
- Financial and clinical innovation starts with the recognition that what radiologists and radiology department do is one component of the entire care cycle that is measured and ultimately compensated by the overall outcomes for the patient and the population being served. So, radiology is not financially measured anymore exclusively on reading as many exams as possible under the traditional fee-for-service model. It’s still important to read them as efficiently and as accurately as possible and share the results as quickly as possible with the broader care team in order to produce the best-possible clinical outcomes for patients at the lowest possible operating costs to the group or hospital. Radiologists and radiology departments should be well-versed in the outcome measures their group or hospital report to payers so that they can identify new opportunities to increase their value as part of the care team. For example, by seeing how their work affects hospital readmission rates—and financial penalties for excessive readmission—radiologists and radiology departments will be prepared to take on the second piece of their new role, coordinating and collaborating with the broader care team as patients move along the continuum of care in one setting or across multiple settings.
Finding the Right Partners to Fulfill Role
The theme of this year’s RSNA meeting is really a call to action to radiologists and radiology departments to grow into a new and expanded role as a valued member of a coordinated, patient care team. Technical, financial and clinical innovation can help radiologists and radiology departments fulfill that new role. So, too, can the right imaging partner.
I would urge radiology leaders to ask imaging technology vendors and their peers questions about technical, financial and clinical innovation within radiology. Is their imaging technology interoperable? Are they involved in open information technology standards development? Do they provide risk-based contracts that align with your value-based reimbursement goals? Do they provide services that assist you and your team with defining KPIs, implementing measurements and change programs to achieve your desired results? Do they have technologies that reduce your operating costs and allow for increased reading efficiency and workflow optimization?
With their help, radiologists and radiology departments can measure and improve their role in patient care.
For information about McKesson diagnostic imaging solutions, please contact us.
Scott Galbari is vice president of marketing and portfolio at McKesson Imaging and Workflow Solutions.