All eyes are London for the next fortnight or so. U.S. athletes are competing spectacularly, piling on the medals. The official count stands at 18 gold, nine silver and 10 bronze medals. Teamwork and training are central to this performance.
In contrast, the performance of the U.S. healthcare system might be described as lackluster. In 2010, the U.S. spent 17.6 percent of its GDP on healthcare, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 's (OECD) “Health Data 2012.” Its closest competitor was Switzerland, at a more modest 11.4 percent.
The U.S. in 2010 had 40.7 CT scanners per million population, nearly double the OECD average of 22.6. In 2010, U.S. CT exams per 1,000 population nearly topped the chart at 265. U.S. MRI capacity is similarly high at 31.6 per million population, compared with the OECD average of 12.6. And again, U.S. utilization nearly topped the chart at 97.7 exams per 1,000 population, compared with the OECD average of 46.3.
What has the U.S. investment in healthcare and imaging technology purchased? In 2010, the U.S. infant mortality rate ranked 20th among 22 OECD nations, ahead of Turkey and Mexico. The country lagged behind the OECD average on life expectancy at birth for males and females.
It’s clear that there is a disconnect between spending and outcomes in the U.S. and that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complex factors figure into the equation.
Yet imaging is a central player in the healthcare process. The question is: How can imaging help the U.S. become a global competitor.
Appropriate use will be key, directing physicians to the optimal exam at the optimal time. As healthcare moves away from its unsustainable fee-for-service paradigm, radiology needs to move beyond image interpretation to management of imaging resources.
Will this transform the U.S. from chump to champion? No, but it will be critical in the next-generation model, which, like many U.S. Olympic athletes, emphasizes teamwork.
How is your radiology practice implementing a team model? Let us know.