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Radiologists Feel Need to Speak Up About Value They Bring to Oncology

Tony Hagen @oncobiz
Published: Tuesday, Feb 09, 2016
James Rawson, MD

James Rawson, MD

Though they often lend strength to oncology practices by combining through mergers and affiliations, radiologists are feeling pressure to demonstrate the importance of their work, as the value transition brings increasing scrutiny to levels of waste, inaccuracy, utility, and technological sophistication in their trade.

Speakers planning to present at the upcoming American College of Radiology (ACR) conference in Washington, DC, May 15-19, said that the value transition is leaving no stone unturned.

The value transition is reaching into large medical institutions as well as smaller, independent practices, said James Rawson, MD, a diagnostic radiologist and chair of ACR’s Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care, who practices at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, where he serves as department chair for radiology. It’s important for radiologists to reassess their activities to more clearly define and enhance the value they contribute to the medical process, he said.

“That value could be improved outcomes, it could be lower cost, it could be better patient experience; but, our challenge is to figure out how to increase and improve the value. I think, like everybody else, we’re in the middle of this,” Rawson said.

Radiologists have a vital role in the medical establishment, and, in some cases, they are more upto- date in their use of technology than other medical personnel, Rawson said. “In radiology we have been using computerized information systems for decades, and so we’re not on version 1.0 of radiology information systems or version 1.0 of PACS. I think we bring a unique perspective as we enter into an era of population health and as we look to optimize the care of an entire community.”

Rawson trains radiology residents at the Medical College of Georgia and believes that the broad variety of skills his students are learning—medical physics, clinical radiology, process improvement, informatics, and others—are very much in demand and signify the importance of what radiologists do. “I think we have the skill sets to help optimize system performances, patient outcomes, patient experience, and actually work to lower costs. I think we’re an essential part of the solution,” he said.

Andy DeLaO, chief engagement officer of My Ideal Patient Experience and a Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation healthcare blogger who is delivering the Moreton Lecture at the 2016 ACR conference, said patient expectations are on the rise, as technology has equipped them with far more information about healthcare than before, and their demands for quality are higher, given that more of their own money is being consumed by rising copays and coinsurance.

“I think patients today are knowledgeable and informed and they want to know what they’re getting for the money they’re spending,” DeLaO said. He is a believer that the value change has its roots in the now-highly connected economy that enables patients to obtain good quality healthcare information very rapidly through their electronic devices, leading to levels of discretionary healthcare shopping that did not exist before. “I’m not sure that most people working inside of healthcare would agree with me, but that’s my perception of it,” DeLaO said.

DeLaO said he has had extensive involvement in the development of hospitals and cancer centers, and in renovating and expanding oncology service lines and facilities.

Appropriateness of care was mentioned by both Rawson and DeLaO as an important measure of radiology performance. DeLaO said that satisfying this objective can take the form of quality improvements that include correct interpretations of radiology work the first time around, leading to a decrease in healthcare expenditures. “When a patient comes in, the definitive diagnosis is generated by the radiologist, the pathologist, and that drives the rest of the treatment decision. I think that’s part of the story that needs to be told, and they need to demonstrate that.”


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