JACR: Radiology practices should plan for the future

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Scenario analysis can be highly effective when applied by radiology group practices, according to an article published in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology, which stated that planning for the future can work well for the types of rapid change and high uncertainty that many groups are currently facing in their group decisions .

“Scenario analysis is not just for governments or large corporations,” wrote Frank J. Lexa, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School in Wynnewood, Pa. and author of the article. “[It] is one of the most powerful and compelling tools in modern business science. When applied well, it is one of the best techniques available to organizations for attacking some of the hardest problems [radiology practices] face: trying to plan for future change in the face of heightened uncertainty.”

In his article, Lexa provides practical elements and tips for improving the success rates and value of scenario analysis at the group and practice levels. The main elements include:

  • Get outside help; participants from outside the group can be valuable in providing perspective.
  • Stay on topic and keep other issues out; during group meetings, irrelevant or tangential topics should be tabled for another session.
  • Stimulate discussion; if need be, raise questions to be answered at the meeting, or divide the meeting participants into subgroups prior to the meeting and assign the groups different topics to present.
  • Do not just acknowledge the perspective of the other folks; become the other folks; use realistic role playing to better prepare for a challenge.
  • Pick a smart time horizon; the time horizons should be long enough to provide significant insights into the future, while not being so deep into the future that they are irrelevant.
  • It's never just about the money; critical decisions present other important factors that must be considered other than the money.
  • Zero-sum games are dull and usually the result of not seeing all the possibilities; one side does not have to “win” at the expense of the other.
  • Stakeholder maps; look at what it would be like to be in another’s shoes, such as a hospital administrator, in order to better understand the constraints on their funding decisions or the limitations of their contractual positions.
  • Make it actionable; do not simply predict the possible futures, but plan to survive and thrive in them.

Lexa said that scenario practice should not be limited to large-scale geopolitical issues and notes that these sessions can be helpful for medium-sized and small challenges that may arise within the radiology practice.

“The key to making this work is to not only map these futures, but to come up with the actions you need to take as a group and as an individual to adapt and to succeed in the likely futures you envision,” the article concluded.