Practice management: Leaping into the unknown

Earlier this month, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner made history—and captivated social media for days—by sky-diving from a distance of 23 miles above the surface of the Earth.

As he stood on the edge of his capsule seconds before jumping, I wonder if Baumgartner felt anything like radiology administrators do today as they prepare to leap from current practice customs into a new, unfamiliar healthcare landscape.

Sound overly dramatic? Perhaps, but consider that should the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act survive calls for repeal by Republicans this election season, its full implementation would mark the first major healthcare reform since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid—which happened four years before Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. As such, radiology department and practice managers should have particular interest in this year’s election.

Regardless of the election results, though, changes will be coming to radiology. The spike in advanced imaging utilization in the early 2000s has made the specialty a target, fairly or unfairly, of reimbursement cuts and utilization management schemes. While some programs offer success stories, such as a payer-provider initiative to implement decision support tools in Minnesota, others caution that relinquishing too much control of imaging decisions to software companies or radiology benefits managers could put radiology on the path to commoditization.  

Radiology administrators are going to need to differentiate their practices from the competition in order to survive, and that means putting patients first—which just so happens to be the theme of RSNA 2012. And what do patients want? Surveys show they are increasingly interested in having online access to their own medical records. They are also attracted to a comfortable patient experience that’s closer to a day at the spa rather than a day at the hospital.

Utilization and patient comfort are just two of the many aspects of practice management. There are legal concerns, staff recruitment needs, safety issues and more—all of which will be covered at RSNA. The Health Imaging editorial team has highlighted a few can’t-miss sessions on practice management, and we’ll be there onsite with live online coverage from Nov. 25-30. We’ll also follow-up the conference with coverage in our daily newsletters through December and in the January/February issue of Health Imaging magazine.

So poke around our newly designed website, subscribe to any of our monthly topic portals and be sure to stop by and introduce yourself at RSNA. We are always looking forward speaking with, and learning from, our readers.

Evan Godt, staff writer