ACOs Need Tech-Savvy Radiologists


Radiologists can use their IT expertise to help ACOs succeed.

The political climate around health care might have changed drastically in the last year, but according to industry leaders, one thing is certain - the accountable care organization (ACO) and focus on value-based imaging are holding steady.

And, it’s the responsibility of radiologists to make sure they’re exerting as much influence over how imaging is used as possible, said James Whitfill, MD, chief medical officer of Scottsdale Health Partners.

“It’s crucial that radiologists bring their talent, leadership, and knowledge of information technology to their organizations,” he said at this year’s RSNA.

By doing so, radiologists can also play a role in controlling health care costs - a goal that’s becoming more and more critical. Currently, health care accounts for 18% of U.S. gross domestic product, he said, and that percentage is expected to grow to nearly 20% by 2025.

That rise is unsustainable, Whitfill said. To control the cost, the health care system must provide more efficient care that leads to better outcomes. And, CMS is looking to do just that, looking for methods and systems that hold providers accountable for improvements while fostering innovation.

It’s a prime situation for radiologists to step in and take on more meaningful roles in ACOs, said Gary Dent, MD, president of South Georgia Radiology Associates. There are ways you and your colleagues can positively impact the ongoing push for value-based imaging. Here are his recommendations:

1. Understand your ACO: Take the time to learn about the structure and stakeholders in your ACO. The more you know about how it impacts radiologists, the better you’ll be able to focus your efforts to help improve outcomes, services provided, and care coordination.

2. Identify practice needs: Identify where your practice can improve on care coordination and figure out how you can best position yourself to improve what your practice does, such as streamlining communication with your referring providers or truncating your turn-around times as much as possible.

3. Leverage your skills: Don’t shy away from your information technology skills. It’s one of the biggest strengths radiology offers, and it’s becoming more and more desirable as health care moves in the digital direction. Showcasing your abilities can be an effective way to highlight the leadership you can provide.

“Even if you’re inept as a radiologist from a technology standpoint, you’re probably still one of the best tech gurus in the hospital compared to internists and hospitalists fighting with an EMR for the first time,” Dent said. “You’ve been dealing with technology your entire career.”

4. Use your insights: As the radiologist, you have a bird’s eye view into how your referring provider colleagues view and use imaging. You know their habits and where your practice or department could work with them toward better utilization and value-based imaging. Make recommendations based on those experiences.

5. Develop a data strategy: Every day, you have access to a plethora of unstructured data. Your practice or department could benefit from your guidance in how best to use it. Determining a strategy can positively impact reports, billing, your PACS, and several other areas.

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