Radiologist Should Maximize Leadership Resources

February 16, 2012

As the details of healthcare reform begin to solidify, one this is clear: Radiologists must step up and assume greater leadership roles.

As the details of healthcare reform begin to solidify, one this is clear: Radiologists must step up and assume greater leadership roles.

Even though reimbursement rates are falling, the use of diagnostic imaging services is on the rise, meaning staff levels could grow. That expansion, according to some industry leaders, makes it imperative that experienced radiologists boost their management skills.

“When I looked at the industry, I saw a massive difference between the skill set of radiology leaders and our need for leaders and managers who have the experience to deal with hospital administration, insurance companies, and government,” said James Thrall, MD, radiologist-in-chief for Massachusetts General Hospital and former American College of Radiology president. “In order to be effective, radiology leaders need to learn what health systems expect from us.”

Leading industry organizations are already answering the call by launching educational institutes to boost radiologists’ expertise as leaders and managers. The ACR announced it will hold the first event of the Radiology Leadership Institute in July. The institute will include, among others, business and practice education courses from the Radiology Business Management Association. The Radiological Society of North America has also joined with three other radiology education societies in sponsoring the Academy of Radiology Leadership and Management, which will build on educational programs and resources offered online and at annual meetings.

The field must produce leaders who can demonstrate the specialty’s worth, and to date, the industry has lacked such individuals, according to researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, writing in an article published in this month’s issue of the journal Radiology.

“In short, radiology has not consistently translated its financial success into greater influence,” wrote Hedvig Hricak, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s radiology chair. “Thus, it often lacks a strong voice, both at an institutional level and in political decision-making bodies.”

To meet this challenge, Hricak and his team said radiologists can grow their leadership skills by strengthening their relationships with other disciplines, connecting directly with patients, investing in research that supports the value of imaging, and pursuing a subspecialty. These strategies can bolster radiology as the healthcare arena navigates reform.

“Ultimately, the pressure to improve quality and efficiency will shift the focus of our healthcare system from high-cost acute care to low-cost preventive medicine and control of chronic diseases,” the authors concluded. “Without doubt, radiology has much to contribute to that transition. But the imaging community cannot wait and hope that others will see this; we must show them it is so. More than ever, we need to lead - and not follow.”