AHRA: The Economy, Healthcare Reform & the Need for Collaboration Dominate Annual Meeting
AHRA President Debra A. Lopez
The setting for the 2010 annual meeting of the AHRA: association for medical imaging management—Washington, D.C.—couldn’t be more appropriate. As always, the meeting will focus on executive-level radiology management strategies, but this year, Beltway initiatives, including healthcare reform and new regulations, will take center stage. Health Imaging & IT chatted with AHRA President Debra A. Lopez (pictured left) to get a sneak peek at this year’s conference and issues top of mind to radiology administrators.

How has the economy this year influenced the overall theme of the meeting?

The major difference is that our economy has been down, and major reform has just been finalized. We are still trying to figure out how reform will affect us and how we are supposed to continue quality patient care in this type of climate. We also have to deliver care with the perspective of the patient in mind. To do this, we have to stop putting up silos between the radiology department and other departments because it should be one flow for patients. Departments need to collaborate to better leverage caregivers’ time and healthcare resources.

How can radiologists prepare for upcoming challenges like new regulations?

Of course, radiology groups will be affected by decreasing reimbursement. My best advice to them is to work closely with organizations such as the American College of Radiology (ACR) that are closely monitoring these changes and advocating on radiologists’ behalf. This year, the AHRA conference keynote address by Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, will focus on healthcare reform, in terms of how to pursue the best equipment and put the best policies and quality programs in place, while still watching the bottom line by reducing waste and healthcare costs.

What are some other executive-level considerations that must be taken into account in terms of diminishing reimbursement?

Networking is very important, as AHRA members have to do more with less because of the economy and because healthcare is somewhat of a target.  Our country spends a great deal on healthcare and would like to make sure it is getting a good value. Our reimbursement for services is being reduced, which represents a huge challenge for us. We aren’t like a grocery store where we can put out day-old bread to save money, we must always do the best for our patients, and we have sessions that will focus on how to provide quality care despite reduced revenues.

What other general trends in radiology management are important these days?

Emerging technology and regulatory changes are key. We will have breakfast roundtable discussions with group members leading dialogue on topics such as cost containment and process improvement. This allows members to share ideas and best practices, with an eye toward quality outcomes and cost reductions. We also will hold our basic leadership sessions on asset management, communications, information management, fiscal management and human resources considerations and operations management. Finally, we will have a Joint Commission update.

How will the theme and topics of this year’s conference differ from previous meetings?

We’re very concerned about healthcare reform and some of the new regulations. Also, more collaboration is taking place, not only between the disciplines and hospitals but between organizations, all working together for better patient care and quality. A new collaboration with the Association for Radiology Imaging Nurses (ARIN) pairs radiology nurses and our members to present information about the importance of collaboration between nursing and the radiology department.