Imaging in black and white

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Lisa Fratt - FOR LEAD ONLY - 118.11 Kb
Lisa Fratt, Editor, Health Imaging
The top news of the week may seem all too familiar to radiology stakeholders. On the one hand is the bad news: Demand for radiologists has plummeted. The other hand shows the promise of diagnostic imaging. Studies have illustrated its potential to extend the golden window for stroke treatment, expedite evaluation and care of patients with chest pain and detect amyloid plaque. And in the middle is the drop in imaging utilization, which was attributed to a variety of factors.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) responded swiftly and emphatically to the study published July 25 in Health Affairs, which confirmed that imaging growth had slowed by the mid-2000s. According to ACR, the authors’ list of causes was incomplete and failed to factor radiology’s initiatives into the equation. ACR pointed out that the increasing use of appropriateness criteria, educational campaigns and more widespread adoption of accreditation have contributed to the slowdown.

This response provides an essential model for radiologists. Imaging stakeholders need to tell their story. It is easy to get lost in the swell of information about healthcare reform, meaningful use and escalating healthcare costs. However, there are other important stories to share with colleagues, policymakers and patients.

Imaging is central to efficacious and cost-effective patient care, and radiologists, as the imaging experts, are central to this endeavor. However, this message and recognition of the value of radiologists seems to be lost in the din.

In the Health Affairs study, the authors detailed radiologists’ loss of bargaining power, which has translated into reduced compensation and less favorable contract terms. Physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins quantified the results. Demand for radiologists has sunk from the most requested physician specialty in 2003 to 18th in 2011-2012.   

It’s important that imaging professionals follow ACR’s model and stress the positive contributions of imaging and imaging professionals to the patient care process. If you haven’t had a chance earlier this week, read Health Imaging’s stories about demand and imaging utilization, and the role of imaging in stroke treatment, chest pain evaluation and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Then share the story.

Let us know how you are sharing these stories with colleagues and others. What are their questions and responses? How can Health Imaging better help you?

Lisa Fratt, editor