Building a Better Bottom Line
The business of healthcare in general and radiology specifically has grown exponentially more challenging in recent years. A variety of factors—an aging population, healthcare reform, evolving payment models—have converged and unleashed a storm.

There will be winners: organizations that anticipate and plan for the evolving landscape. And there will be losers. Organizations that bury their heads in the sand and assume that healthcare will revert to an era of less stringent regulation, guaranteed contracts and minimal competition may be in line for a rough ride.

In this month's cover story, Health Imaging & IT analyzes radiology's business frontier to develop a blueprint for building successful partnerships. We learned that business and financial issues are quite challenging. However, numbers are clear, and there are a plethora of financial experts available to share their wisdom … at a price. (And investing in a financial consultant is well-worth the price.)

But the cultural issues associated with integrating practices are equally important. Practices that don't account for the difficulties of blending varied physician work patterns run the risk of failure.

There is a significant upside. As we learned, organizations that attend to all of the details (regulatory and payment issues, financial data and cultural blending) find themselves firmly planted on the path to success.

In this month's issue, we also delve into some business details of clinical workflow. Smart practices, for example, are eeking every ounce of efficiency from their CT scanners. The University of Chicago Hospitals slashed CT turn-around by an impressive 65 percent by automating a variety of technologist steps. Other variables including staffing and scheduling can be massaged to optimize scanning efficiency.

Interestingly, similar themes arose when we analyzed top PACS problems. That is, IT and staffing are at the heart of many PACS problems (and solutions).

Our other features dive into two hot issues in radiology—the rise of handheld ultrasound and managing of incidentalomas. Pocket-sized ultrasound is a technological breakthrough and has been proffered as the stethoscope of the 21st century. However, payment and archiving mechanisms have not yet developed to keep pace. Stay tuned.

Finally, incidentalomas represent the double-edged sword of exquisite visualization. With the diffusion of high-resolution, advanced imaging systems, radiologists are seeing more than ever. But handling incidental findings is a quandary. We visited with Lincoln L. Berland, MD, lead author of the American College of Radiology's white paper on the topic, to learn more about the issue.

As we enter our first full month of summer, I hope that you find time to rest and re-charge and also to reflect on your practice's business plan. We're living in a challenging, but manageable and potentially profitable, era. I hope that the following pages offer valuable insights and strategic information.