After 35 years in radiology, I can certainly say the only constant is change. Well, actually, that and the fact that no one and nothing is exempt from being affected by the change! Imaging modalities, imaging professionals, information technology, regulatory statutes, reimbursement, mergers and acquisitions, and of course the way we treat and best serve patients, have all tremendously changed…some of these for the better!
Diminishing Reimbursements: The Dark Side of Change
Despite advances and improvements in the radiology industry, we all know that reimbursement will never increase! That factor alone is powerful and it’s driving what happens in the radiology marketplace. Now more than ever before, radiology groups, hospitals and health systems must:
- strive to continuously provide the best quality care
- deliver the best radiology interpretations
- provide the best customer service
- implement these superior standards of care in the most efficient and cost-effective way
- cope with and try to overcome the challenges of continuously decreasing reimbursements!
That’s the bad news, but it needs to be viewed as an opportunity. There is also a positive trend that we should discuss, which is the push for better overall service to imaging patients through the use of subspecialty reads.
Shift to Subspecialty Reads: The Bright Side of Change
The shift towards subspecialty radiology is a positive trend that has been coming for quite some time. Patients and referring clinicians rightfully deserve the best radiology interpretation they can get – regardless of their geographical location, where the test is performed, or the time of day or night.Imagine the patient is someone you love or someone close to your heart. For example, would you want your wife, daughter, mother or anyone else, to have a mammogram read by a radiologist who:
- only occasionally looks at these types of studies
- has no real formal training in this specialty, and,
- has not kept current on the latest changes in mammography or the technology involved
I’m certain I know everyone’s answer to that question!The same is true for all specialties: neuro, musculoskeletal, pediatrics, thoracic, GI/GU, NM and PET, etc. We are faced with referring physicians and patients who demand better and more specialized service and thus their demand for subspecialty radiology expertise and solutions continue to increase.
Subspecialty Teleradiology is Critical, But Are You Truly Getting Subspecialty Reads?
While some providers already have subspecialty capabilities, specifically the larger or Goliath radiology groups, this is not the norm. The majority of radiology groups are still 10 persons or less, many actually under 5, and this makes it difficult or all but impossible to have every subspecialty in-house. Stand-alone imaging centers may only have one radiologist.
It’s true that teleradiology services and solutions have given groups and hospitals additional flexibility to provide subspecialty reads. A radiology group can better use their own manpower and subspecialists during the day and use teleradiology at night. Now however, there is a heightened demand for 24/7 subspecialty radiology reads. It is impossible for all radiology groups to have every subspecialty covered, because not every group is large enough or can afford to do so. While teleradiology can increase an imaging provider’s capabilities, even the largest teleradiology services rarely provide full subspecialty matching coverage due to turn around times and manpower issues.
Increased demand for subspecialty reads is evidence that imaging providers must be able to deliver this expertise, all the time, without interruption at any point which could create a negative change in the patient experience. Maintaining superior standard of care when specialists are out of the office on vacation, at meetings, or even for illness, can be challenging. The ability to fully transition to subspecialty reads would decrease error rates, provide patients with better information so that the referring doctor or other clinicians can better serve that patient and their needs, and thus provide better outcomes.
Addressing the critical issue of subspecialty need and demand is the goal of modern teleradiology solutions like DocPanel, a new, all-subspecialty online marketplace. If your center or group could benefit from academic-level subspecialty radiology reads and support, visit DocPanel or contact us to learn more.
About Howard Asch
Howard brings 35 years of healthcare radiology and diagnostic imaging sales experience to DocPanel. His ambition and palpable charisma have enabled him to invigorate bottom lines, build strong client relationships, and grow brand recognition for companies across the healthcare and radiology landscape. His success as an accomplished sales leader is driven by his ability to build genuine connections and understand what solutions and services will help clients achieve their most critical present and future goals.