Putting the Rad Back in Tele-radiology

September 24, 2020
Jorge Ramirez, M.D., Practice President of Matrix teleradiology division, Radiology Partners

With the right structure, teleradiology can offer radiologists an inclusive environment, especially during stressful times.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing profound change to healthcare, practices that planned for growth in teleradiology before the pandemic are seeing the upside of their forethought.

Teleradiology has many benefits but can result in detachment and isolation if culture is ignored and physicians are not involved in business decisions. Unfortunately, this scenario played out in too many teleradiology groups as competition in remote reading increased, even before the pandemic.

Under this pressure, many teleradiology groups transformed from a quality service provider into a production business with the primary objective of extracting maximum productivity from radiologists, partially by assigning key radiologist contributions to administrators to manage. In some groups, the isolation of radiologists was used as a tool for business owners to assert control over the radiologists. These financially driven business decisions resulted in a negative working environment with a lack of physician engagement and, ultimately, generated a negative stigma around teleradiology among physician colleagues.

Enter Matrix, an internal remote reading division of Radiology Partners (RP). At RP Matrix, we are committed to creating a new vision of teleradiology, one which provides a seamless transition from the high-quality care provided by the local practice. We are accomplishing this mission by utilizing the expertise of our radiologists by actively seeking their input to create a democratic, transparent, and fair practice.

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We encourage camaraderie and group discussions resulting in a culture of belonging and safety that promotes a positive working and learning environment. We treat each other like family. Our radiologists are referred to as remote readers for our local practices, instead of generic teleradiologists, emphasizing our position as an accountable partner. We are integral members of the local practices we serve, involved and equally responsible for the wellbeing of the group and the care of its patients.

We are fortunate to have a model that allows us to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of a large practice with the feel and function as a small practice. This is more important than ever as practices work to recover from lower volumes caused by the pandemic. Structuring our team in regional subgroups has fostered a closer relationship between our remote radiologists, the local radiologists, and referring clinicians with whom we are servicing. This model facilitates a partner-to-partner collaboration and joint accountability between the local practice and Matrix.

As part of a large practice, we also benefit from the scale and expertise afforded by a nationwide structure. This larger structure affords scaled investments in multiple areas that allow our practice to drive value, including our clinical innovation programs, artificial intelligence, and data management systems, to name a few. Our practice values and seeks physician expertise and in turn, physician input drives all clinical decisions and provides oversight for our support teams. Unlike most teleradiology groups, our Matrix radiologists also have the opportunity to become a partner and owner in our practice.

I am proud to be part of my Matrix and RP family. A place where I am eager to read cases, happy to share my work and personal life with my peers, and excited to contribute to an environment in which our practice can continue to excel by providing the best clinical value and service, enhancing our radiologist’s experience, and fulfilling our mission to transform Radiology. Simply said, I feel lucky.