5 Things to Consider about Radiology Post-Pandemic


Getting Your Team Ready for the Future of Radiology in a Post-Pandemic World

It is sometimes hard to see the forest all around you when you are busy focusing on the trees directly ahead. Likewise, when combatting a growing public health crisis, such as the novel coronavirus, we may be spending more time dealing with the immediate situation, with little time and attention given to what we will be doing in the aftermath of this growing public health crisis.

Several months into the global pandemic responsible for causing rampant infections of COVID-19, members of the radiology community need to address the harsh realities of this disease. There are five main factors considering radiology’s future status to keep in mind.

These issues are related to reimbursement, regulations, human resources, ongoing education and learning, and the growing use of telemedicine.

1. Getting Reimbursed

Leaders of radiology practices should consider expanding the financial expertise under their own roof. With the pandemic underscoring the ramifications of financial uncertainty, you would be wise to build up financial reserves and make contact with your lenders.

Establishing better relationships with referrers could also help you get through the next public health emergency. It is crucial to openly discuss the changes and understand why they evolve.

Healthcare leaders should seek professional finance help. Preparing for a rainy day now will help you weather future storms more easily.

2. Regulatory Issues

It would be in your practice’s best interest to forge stronger bonds with your insurers and the lawmakers who represent you and who preside over radiology industry regulatory affairs. You should naturally do this on a local level, as well as on the national stage. Practices with less clout and standing are advised to join professional societies as they make an effort to change policy about the business of radiology.

Meeting with the principals in these groups is a good idea overall, even when you are not trying to sort out regulatory affairs during a pandemic. You can anticipate coming changes to the healthcare industry, as well as make your opinions known to the legislators. If you aren’t involved in the decisions that go into making laws concerning radiology, you really would have no right to complain about adverse effects.

For example, the impending E&M changes may end up with the unintended consequence of shaving radiology reimbursement by 10 percent. This is a great opportunity for radiology practices to jump in and roll up their advocacy sleeves.

3. Humans Working with Smart Machines

Many industries are evolving because of their growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) to scan through massive databases of information, detecting important patterns, as well as to make predictions and gain greater control over their business processes. With that in mind, how much attention has your organization been paying to the role of AI and algorithms used to examine scans in radiology?

It’s a distinct possibility that pressures from the novel coronavirus pandemic will cause more practices to start working with AI systems. AI and machine learning algorithms can be used to examine radiology scans automatically and at high speed, helping to remove some grunt work from radiologists’ duties.

It is possible that image interpretation will continue to be supervised by radiologists. However, practices will incorporate mid-level providers and machine learning tools to augment the productivity of their physicians.

If your organization has not looked into AI and machine analysis yet, now would be a good time to investigate its usage. It seems inevitable that more successful practices will start to look at using machine learning tools both clinically and on the business side. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing momentum, with other radiologists getting more work done with fewer resources.

4. Ongoing Education

While it may seem strange to participate in these events over a computer – and you will not get the same opportunities to bump into colleagues and compare notes – you will at least be assured that participation will be safer as compared to attending in person.

Even after society has therapeutic agents and vaccinations for COVID-19, we still have to take into account that another pandemic could arise with even greater lethality, meaning that distance learning may become a standard feature of conferences and continuing education.

We are interested in participating in remote/virtual conferences to stay up on our continuing education requirements. The recent RBMA virtual PaRADigm conference is a good example of things to come.

5. Telepresence and Medicine at a Distance

We can anticipate continuing protests and demonstrations with citizens concerned about police violence and other pressing issues, along with severe weather conditions and random outbreaks of COVID-19. Such occurrences indicate that radiology professionals will need to work remotely. As a result, we need to continue enhancing telemedicine for all physicians. This includes data security.

Indeed, your organization must verify it is following current best practices to safeguard patient information when conducting telepresence meetings. You don’t want sensitive information to wind up in the hands of enterprising computer criminals bent on identify theft and fraud. Hire a computer security expert to consult with your team if you have not already taken care of this vital task in the midst of this new era of telemedicine, and be sure that you havemore than adequate cyber-insurance in place.

Preparing Your Radiology Organization for Changes in a Post-COVID World

What are you planning on doing in your organization once we emerge from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic? It would be prudent to gather together with stakeholders soon so you can prepare for potential changes in how you handle layoffs and retirement contributions, for example, or to stay on top of new regulations. You may also need to devote some time and attention to the use of AI to lower the burden on staffers for image interpretation. Finally, it’s likely that your team will be using telemedicine systems more often to work from remote performing radiology duties.

All of the topics discussed are valuable conversations to engage in with like-minded radiology groups. There is significant value in the aggregation of independent radiology practices into management service organizations whilst still maintaining their independence. The exchange of information and scale-based savings applied to insurance costs, overhead costs, and billing costs cannot be ignored.

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Nina Kottler, MD, MS
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