When it comes to medical imaging, one of the most important investments any medical group, imaging center, hospital, or integrated delivery network can make is in physician leadership.
Motivated, visionary physician leadership drives expansion of services, selection of equipment, training of technologists, as well as communication with referring physicians and technologists. Physician leadership helps to establish the culture and ethics of the organization. Successful leadership motivates the participation of other physician group members and can create a positive, can-do attitude throughout the imaging organization. With radiologist burn-out on the rise and radiology residency applications on the decline, it has never been more important to create a positive environment for imaging professionals.
Physician leadership and the bottom line
Let's examine the influence physician leadership can have on an organization from the imaging professional group perspective. Suppose you have a radiology or cardiology group with 20 members each working approximately 250 days per year, for a total of 5,000 person-days. Each 1% of physician efficiency gained translates into 50 days saved; each 10% into 500 days saved.
Now, let's examine the impact of leadership on the technical organization. Even small imaging departments and imaging centers today typical generate more than $5M in net revenue, with larger departments generating much greater sums. Again, even small incremental changes in revenue or costs translate into big dollars. A 10% rise in net revenue or reduction in costs for a small $5M department can drop an extra $500K to the bottom line.
With this in mind, does your organization assign a physician leader in medical imaging, and if so, is that leader provided a job description, training, compensation, and adequate time? Do you instead expect the “chairman” to perform a vaguely-specified job after-hours or squeezed in between other responsibilities? Given that a 10% shift of group efficiency and technical revenues alone could result in an impact equivalent to two full-time equivalents, plus $500K per year in the small example shown above, does failing to invest in physician leadership make sense?
What to look for in a leader
For those seeking a physician leader, some qualities should be considered essential, including:
- Excellent communication skills
- A passion for teaching
- A love of problem solving
Note—technical skills are far less important than the three key items noted above. Do not make the mistake, for example, of assigning this job to a doctor because he or she “knows computers.”
If crafting a job description, consider the following as key requirements:
Willingness to Learn
- Actively participate in learning about information system and other key technologies
- Attend client conferences of key vendors
- Carefully review the release notes prior to all key software releases
- Experiment with new technologies and workflows introduced with product releases
Ability to Teach
- Coordinate web-learning sessions
- Communicate with physicians and non-physician users, especially your business/clinical managers and information system administrators
- Inform your users how to take advantage of improvements with each new release
- Track the progress of your reading physicians and other clinical users. (How many are in the beginner category? How many are advanced?)
Capacity to Supervise
- Watch your colleagues work and offer advice for improving quality and efficiency
- Validate that system configuration is set up correctly
- Verify that recommended maintenance procedures are completed and documented
Ready to get started? Launching a formal application process among your candidates is a great place to begin. With as little as 2-3 days allocated per month, a physician leader can make the
difference in your organization.
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