Beyond the read: New roles for rads

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 - Radiologist
Source: © Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

“Will they [radiologists] be enslaved by the productivity needs of an efficient read machine? Or can they actualize the potential of their inherent core competencies?” These questions posed by two physicians strike at the heart of radiology’s future.

Radiologists’ ability to navigate the new waters of accountable healthcare and population health could make or break their survival. Richard Afable, MD, MPH, from Covenant Health Network in Irvine, Calif., and Michael N. Brant-Zawadzki, MD, from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, in Newport Beach., Calif., delineated two emerging roles for radiologists that could help secure their role in a population health model, in an article published online July 15 in Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Properly aligned incentives for population health, according to Afable and Brant-Zawadzki, leverage strategic management to extract value and reward payers, providers and patients. “It can drive the transformation from an episode-centered, provider-centered care delivery system to one in which payers, providers, and consumers are all beneficially intertwined.”

Although the current model fails to incentivize physicians to rationally deliver healthcare, an accountability-focused population model emphasizes appropriate utilization and optimum efficiency, safety and satisfaction.

Radiologists can play two key roles in this model, according to the authors.

First, they can reclaim their traditional role as clinical consultants and help manage the disease care process. Essential value-added responsibilities would include facilitating access, connecting primary care providers and specialists, coordinating information management, overseeing patient safety and communication and supervising technologist education and device procurement.

Second, radiologists could take on leadership roles as organizations transition toward the population health model. “Radiologists have traditionally been innovators in health care technology and have practiced in teams, and they know well the worlds and knowledge bases of both primary care providers and specialists.”

Afable and Brant-Zawadzki concluded by characterizing the opportunities as compelling. “Should they choose to do so, radiologists can become significant partners in managing population health processes and help facilitate those concepts enabling patients to be at the center of the current health care delivery transformation.”