Like their colleagues in other specialties, many radiologists still practice in a time when success depends largely on the volume of treatments and tests they can render. But the day is coming, in the not-too-distant future, when they can expect their livelihood to hinge more heavily on the value they bring to the table. Radiologists and their assorted specialties and sub-specialties, without question, have enormous potential to provide significant contributions in the value-based model of healthcare for multiple reasons.
Firstly, imaging procedures are often used to rule out particular diagnoses. A “normal” imaging exam, for example, can generate significant cost savings simply by obviating the need for expensive downstream interventions, procedures and medications. Used in conjunction with appropriateness criteria, moreover, imaging tests serve as a valuable decision point for the appropriate course of treatment.
Imaging also provides physicians with the ability to complete some medical interventions less invasively. Image-guided interventions, for instance, allow for the completion of clinical procedures in a less intensive manner, often yielding a faster diagnosis with a less painful recovery.
Consequently, healthcare organizations that see radiologists simply as report generators in the background of patient care lose the value of a key partner in sorting through the right imaging exams with the right protocols to best optimize the desired outcomes of patient care. In fact, the more knowledgeable a radiologist can be on a patient’s health information and objectives prior to an exam order, and the more he or she is consulted on the correct exam, the greater the clinical value of the ensuing reports.
There are three key steps radiologists and their practices should be doing to prepare for the era of value-based healthcare.
- Focus on improving referral relationships. Many referring physicians are striving to meet the requirements of approaching regulatory measures, such as Meaningful Use Stage 2 and ICD-10, and are searching for solutions. Think through options you, as a radiologist, can offer to help make it easier for referring physicians to comply with these legislative measures. These solutions can help bring in more health information, provide clinical decision support tools, add easy communication options and return more information back to the referring physicians.
- Engage with stakeholders in ways they have come to expect in other aspects of their lives. Consumer-based expectations are driving all industries, and healthcare is no different. Radiologists should provide both patients and referring practices, for example, with online and mobile device access to their medical images and reports as appropriate. Consider connecting them with better educational and background resources, and providing them with options for communicating with your practice. Can referring physicians and patients easily find your practice on-line, communicate electronically and understand how to easily navigate their relationship with you? These are all tactics in which you can meet – and even exceed – patient and provider expectations to prove your value as a key partner.
- Invest in business intelligence (BI) resources and technologies. In this market environment, it goes beyond simply gathering big data and critical patient information. By leveraging BI solutions, you can consistently show and demonstrate the value of your practice to all your stakeholders, and not just to referring physicians and their patients, but also to payers, ACOs, compliance organizations, etc.
Taking steps like these now can help radiologists and medical imaging practices of all sizes position themselves among the most valuable players in the coming era of value-based healthcare.