Why You Should Care About vRad’s Trove of Imaging Data

November 22, 2013

vRad’s patient care data promises massive scale objectivity. Is it of any use?

A few blogs ago, I described how as a teleradiologist providing off-hour coverage for multiple institutions, I am an outsider in pretty much every place I work. Typically without authority to alter/improve operations in such facilities, I nevertheless have something to offer that onsite staff doesn’t: An objective view, coupled with a similarly objective view of similar facilities I cover across the country.

Such outsider input isn’t always welcomed or even acknowledged. One valid reason might be that, notwithstanding a telerad’s objectivity relative to those working onsite, our observations are nevertheless colored by our own subjective experiences. Further, while we may be able to demonstrate how productive, efficient, and accurate our radiological reads are, as far as the facilities’ onsite staff are concerned, we might be completely clueless when it comes to making recommendations as to how the hospitals might better conduct their affairs.

Enter RPC (Radiology Patient Care) Indices, a new initiative of vRad. Readers of this blog will know that I have been reading with vRad for a couple of years, and most keeping tabs on the field of radiology will know that vRad is the largest teleradiology group in the country. “Largest” might mean a few different things in this context, but you can pretty much take your pick: 450+ radiologists in the fold, more than 2,000 served facilities across the USA, and more than 7 million studies read per year.

Such numbers promise massive scale objectivity, and are not even the tip of the iceberg of available data. Patient age, gender, body part, modality, time of study, clinical indications for imaging, whether or not abnormalities were found, etc. - you get the idea.

Is this of use to anybody other than academic types who might use the data for their next attempt at getting published?

Consider an instance already on the record: One client, using RPC Indices, sized up their MRI volume and compared it against (anonymized) hospitals of similar size and demographics. They found that their outpatient MR volume was less than that of their peers, while their (more costly) ER and inpatient MR was disproportionately high. Not only did the data point to a solution involving hospital changes in staffing, but the hospital’s administration then had evidence to show clinicians how their ordering behavior might be adjusted for mutual benefit.

Or another client, which was considering recruitment of a full-time CAQ interventionalist (not exactly a cheap prospect). Volume data from the Indices, compared against similar facilities, showed that there would be greater benefit in addressing the client’s atypically low numbers for women’s imaging, by instead taking on another mammo-capable rad.

But suppose a facility doesn’t think it needs any such data or guidance, and is so confident in its status quo that it foresees no need for any in the future. Can the facility consider RPC Indices irrelevant?

Perhaps at the price of a lost opportunity. You might have heard a thing or two about future trends in healthcare and its reimbursement, moving away from fee-for-service and towards pay for performance. Increased focus on reducing overutilization of imaging, and moving towards a system in which a leaner, more efficient operation will fare better than facilities that continue with current practices. Data and analysis available via RPC Indices offer a major tool in assessing one’s own facility’s strengths and weaknesses, sizing up what the rest of the industry is doing by comparison, and ultimately proving to regulators how one’s stats compare against the rest of the herd.

Intrigued? There’s more information (open-access and free!) here.