Valuing outcome metrics

Radiology should be shouting from the rooftops about the value they provide in order to avoid being commoditized. Despite this, the specialty lags behind in terms of measuring outcome-based quality metrics.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology illustrates this fact. Anand Narayan, MD, of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and colleagues tallied the quality metrics currently tracked in radiology by performing a systematic review of literature and surveying radiology benefit managers (RBMs).

They found only 27 percent of quality metrics used in radiology measure patient and case outcomes. This compares with 46 percent of structural quality metrics (examining fixed characteristics such as equipment or accreditation) and 27 percent classified as process-based metrics (examining the appropriateness of provided services).

Narayan and colleagues point out that the lack of focus on outcomes could be leaving radiology to play catch-up compared with other specialties.

“As more radiology practices embed quality or value metrics into their internal productivity assessments or external contracting arrangements, it will be tempting to use more easily measured structure and process metrics,” they wrote. “However, relying solely on structure and process metrics is out of step with national trends and also represents a missed opportunity to draw attention to the significant impact high-quality imaging can have on patient populations.”

Professional societies must heed this call now and promote the use of outcome-based metrics. As reimbursement becomes increasingly tied to value, these metrics will be essential to keep pace.