Imaging: The Collaborative Value Proposition

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 - Lisa Fratt - Portrait
Lisa Fratt, Editor

A just-published study in the Journal of American College of Radiology shows that Medicare now pays non-radiologists more for noninvasive diagnostic imaging than radiologists, with non-rads’ $4.81 billion in discretionary noninvasive diagnostic imaging earnings outpacing radiologists’ $4.65 billion in 2008.

The study, which quantifies non-radiologists’ impact in the diagnostic imaging space, makes for an interesting parallel to this month’s features which analyze the dissemination of imaging across and beyond the enterprise. In the face of declining payments to radiologists, can radiologists, patients and healthcare as a whole be better served when imaging is approached in collaboration rather than competition? 

In our cover story, we look at images in the EMR, visiting with enterprises that have successfully integrated images into the electronic medical record, sharing them in clinical context with providers across the enterprise. When undertaken in a collaborative manner, such projects can reinforce the value of images and radiology and set the stage for new clinical partnerships that accelerate and improve patient care.

Similarly, our informatics feature shows that bringing a breadth of multimodality digital images into the operating suite delivers a better model. Although anecdotal, powerful results suggest that surgical displays enhance communication and knowledge and trim procedure time and length of stay.

Finally, smart sites are slashing costs and improving image access by leveraging cloud storage and connecting to local, state and regional health information exchanges (HIEs).

There is a common denominator here. On the ground level, success of these initiatives hinges on technical infrastructure and integration among various IT systems. However, the ultimate success of these projects rests, in some degree, on the ability of radiologists to leverage them to connect with clinical colleagues and demonstrate their relevance throughout the care process.

Could embracing this collaborative model reverse the trends in imaging payments? It’s difficult to hazard predictions, but it seems unlikely. Imaging, like the healthcare business, is in the midst of massive structural transition. The new models will be lean and evidence-based and make rich, but smart, use of imaging. Radiologists will play an important role, but it will differ from their traditional role. Their value will be derived from knowledge, experience and collaboration rather than straightforward image interpretation. In the uncertain market, one principle seems certain. Practices that wed integrated IT infrastructure with a collaborative practice model will secure a competitive advantage.

As always, we at Health Imaging & IT look forward to hearing your thoughts. Stay in touch and stay informed.