It’s a great time to be in radiology.
It’s a time of change, yes. And that—as with any change—can be unnerving and even frightening.
But with the ongoing transformation in radiology comes great opportunity for growth. And with that in mind, 2018 is an ideal time for radiology groups to take time to explore and consider the possibilities inherent in today’s radiology environment.
The past year will be remembered as a year of consolidation. We not only saw smaller radiology groups joining larger partners, we also started to see large groups choosing to partner with larger health solution providers, like MEDNAX.
The common thread among these practices—big and small—is a desire to identify paths to new growth. Many are successful and profitable today, but have a high-performance mindset that motivates them to look for ways to thrive—not merely survive—in the future.
Access, timeliness and quality
Many are coming to the conclusion that a partnership with an organization like MEDNAX offers opportunities to grow, not just in their local market, but also regionally, or even more broadly.
At the heart of the decision for many practices is the challenge of balancing demands for access, timeliness and quality. And many find that the best—and perhaps only—way to meet that challenge is through a partnership that affords access to technology, training, analytics and, of course, subspecialty-trained radiologists around the clock.
Being entrepreneurial by nature, the leaders of many of these practices admit they fear giving up control of their practice. But many find immense freedom in the ability to maintain control of the local delivery of their clinical services while drawing on national resources for growth, technology and teleradiology resources, as needed.
Growth of final reads
Practices with concerns about the perceived “predatory nature” of teleradiology providers kept them at arm’s length by restricting their involvement to preliminary reads.
But with an economic model that no longer supports preliminary reads and growing pressure from clients to provide clear quality measures, proactive, high-performing practices are moving to a finals-only model of teleradiology partnership.
What they found, in increasing numbers in 2017, is that freeing physicians from morning overreads reduces staffing challenges, saves money and allows the practice to pursue growth opportunities. It allows practices to provide clear quality measures through a consistent reporting structure across the radiology service line. And at the same time, access to subspecialty trained radiologists helps deliver that quality care on a 24/7 basis.
Those who once feared letting vRad “get too close,” now see us as an invaluable extension of their professional staff and critical partner in helping them extend their capabilities.
Only four years ago, 75 percent of vRad’s business was preliminary reads. Today, it’s less than 50 percent and dropping.
Migration to outpatient care
The move to final interpretations was also influenced by another 2017 trend: the migration from inpatient to outpatient care.
In some cases the move is driven by the desire to provide a better patient experience and save costs. Others are simply responding to insurers’ refusal to reimburse for outpatient eligible radiology services—such as MRIs and CTs—when they’re performed in a hospital (as we’ve seen Anthem do in nine states where it provides insurance).
Regardless of the underlying causes, this trend will continue to place a premium on final interpretations and on 24/7 subspecialty expertise, especially considering that outpatient services are provided predominantly during daytime hours.
Prerequisite: A culture of growth
The good news is there’s really only one prerequisite for practices looking to capitalize on the evolving radiology environment in 2018: A culture of growth.
The hallmark of such a culture is a willingness to engage in partnerships that will allow a practice to provide services beyond simply what the members of the group offer today.
It’s a culture that seeks to evaluate hospital partnerships in the hopes of providing more value. It’s a culture that welcomes new ideas and is curious about opportunities for growth.
These are the practices that will continue performing at a high level, especially as the radiology environment continues to evolve.
About the Author
Shannon Werb serves as vRad’s president & chief operating officer, responsible for leading the development and execution of vRad’s short and long-term strategy and for overseeing vRad’s radiology practice operations, technology and data strategy. Werb has more than 20 years of healthcare information technology experience and is a recognized healthcare IT authority, advisor and evangelist. He was selected by Health IT Outcomes as a 2015 “Health IT Change Agent” for leading innovation in radiology. In his personal time, Shannon enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, at least whenever she’s home from college.
Find him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannonwerb/