Will 2013 Be the Year of the Patient?

One unintended consequence of digital imaging is the de-personalization of patients. Digital modalities have translated patients into pixels and made it easy to forget every projection represents a patient.

As 2012 drew to a close with the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), radiologists were exhorted to recognize the patient behind the image. The reasons run from nearly spiritual to pragmatic.

At an RSNA keynote, Richard B. Gunderman, MD, PhD, from Indiana University in Indianapolis, cautioned radiologists of the “danger of spending too much time counting our money and not enough time on what really makes us tick… If these are the signposts by which we navigate our careers and our lives, then we will soon find ourselves on the path to perdition.”

As healthcare transitions from fee-for-service compensation to value-based purchasing, a small but growing group of imaging thought leaders is calling for new approaches to performance evaluation. Soft metrics like patient satisfaction, community service and clinical consultation could translate into the duties du jour in 2013. Read “Dollars & Cents: Rads Redefine Value,” to learn more.

Meanwhile, for all of the bellyaching and finger-pointing about imaging costs and inappropriate use, the bottom line on imaging utilization is patients. It is in patients’ best medical and financial interests to undergo appropriate imaging—and for those results to be communicated in a convenient, time-sensitive format. These issues are analyzed in “Imaging Utilization: Beyond the Numbers,” and “Patient Portals’ Path to the Mainstream.”

As payers attempt to rein in costs, imaging advances continue to march forward. One of the most notable leaps in 2012 was the FDA approval of Amyvid to detect beta amyloid plaque, which can help inform an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Health Imaging examines the practice considerations of florbetapir imaging.

However, critical gaps remain. The diagnostic process for conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia remain murky at best. These conditions are typically identified in childhood, but the process is lengthy and trying for patients and their families. Researchers, primarily outside of the radiology realm, are exploring potential roles for functional MRI in the diagnosis of multiple disorders. Health Imaging surveys the research.

There are hundreds of ways to launch or strengthen a patient-centered radiology practice. Radiology’s capability to focus on patients will become more critical in 2013 and beyond. How has your practice taken steps to become more patient-centered and make this the year of the patient? Let us know.