Five Critical Changes to Radiology Practice: Lessons from the ACR-RBMA Forum

October 19, 2011

Radiologists and radiology groups are not moving far enough or fast enough to keep up with the current pace of the changes we see in healthcare, and we are not taking a large enough role as leaders to make an impact on those changes to be effective advocates for our patients, our clients or ourselves.

A little over two years ago, drawing on the famous words from comic strip Pogo, I wrote a blog roughly titled, "Radiology at a Crossroads: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us." In the real world two years is not a long time, but in politics and business two years is an eternity. So, following the just completed American College of Radiology-Radiology Business Management (ACR-RBMA) Forum, I thought it was time to revisit those thoughts and see what, if anything, has changed.

In the blog, my basic argument was that if we are to thrive in the turbulent times ahead, we need to make some significant and sometimes severe changes to the way we practice and operate our groups. These opinions have since been echoed by others including the ACR through a number of articles and discussions, an ACR task force on radiologist-hospital relations and most recently at the just completed ACR-RBMA Forum to name but a few.

So, how did the experts feel we are doing?

To my ear, I don’t believe the speakers have found we are much better prepared for the future now than we were two years ago. To paraphrase Churchill, in many places radiology appears to not be at the end of the beginning but more like at the end (for some groups) or the beginning of the end. There is certainly more awareness of activities in the political and business world but there seems to be little real movement by the majority of radiologists and radiology groups to transform, or at a minimum prepare for the future.

I came away from the meeting with a list of five critical changes to the way we practice and how we need to prepare for thecoming changes in healthcare:

1. We need to have better practice governance that has a more objective view of our changing business landscape.

2. We need to have more involvement by radiologists in the affairs of the hospitals where we practice.

3. We need to be more client focused in relation to the clinicians we work with and the patients we ultimately serve.

4. We need to understand the new healthcare models being proposed and how they will affect how we will practice and how we will be paid (or not) for the work we do.

5. We need to get involved at all levels of business and government and at all levels of participation, from writing or calling to attending meetings and serving on boards.

The bottom line: Radiologists and radiology groups are not moving far enough or fast enough to keep up with the current pace of the changes we see in healthcare, and we are not taking a large enough role as leaders to make an impact on those changes to be effective advocates for our patients, our clients or ourselves.

If you are not involved with your clients, if you are not involved with your hospitals, if you are not involved with the local and national government, why not?

If you are not involved with your local and state radiology and medical societies, if you are not involved with and/or are members of the RBMA, the ACR, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Board of Radiology (ABR), why not?

The clear consensus is that the decisions that will affect the way you practice and live will be made by those who show up. Start showing up today!
 

Tim Myers, MD, is a practicing radiologist and director of professional services at vRad (Virtual Radiologic). He has more than 15 years of private practice experience and served as the chief medical officer for NightHawk Radiology Services before its merger with vRad.