Radiology in 2012: New Year, Old Challenges

MRI machine

The more things change, the more they stay the same…an old saying that seems appropriate as we head into 2012.

Last year radiology faced dramatic challenges coping with reimbursement reductions. This year we are again facing reductions from CMS, surely followed by other payers.

Last year we faced the looming question of how should radiology earn its appropriate role with ACOs as the CMS rules emerged, and as other payers experimented with them. This year those experiments will multiply.

These are just two examples of challenges to radiology. They are challenges without easy answers. In fact, they are challenges that, without appropriate responses, can financially damage radiology practices, and adversely affect patient care clinically.

New Radiology Practice Model
Last year responses included accelerating trends in hospital employment of physicians, practice mergers, competition between traditional onsite practices and some “national” telerad practices seeking to displace local practices. Here at vRad, the rapid expansion of our vRad Radiology Alliance validated an alternative practice model that created a fully integrated service leveraging the best of onsite practice with the best of teleradiology. Both New York Radiology Alliance (NYRA) and Diagnostic Imaging, Inc. (DII) added new facilities to their practices as a result of this innovative partnership. Look for more of these from us in 2012.

Moving Beyond Historical Teleradiology
This move beyond historical teleradiology (off hours prelims read locally in the morning—clearly a redundancy) to a more integrated delivery using both onsite and remote radiologists 24/7 was also accompanied by our efforts to become more integrated with the radiology community in general. Teleradiology has often been viewed as “vendor” outside the mainstream, rather than a practice that is an important member of the broader radiology community. We believe breaking that outdated stereotype is important. Thus we launched initiatives like our educational partnership with RBMA, and expanded our online CME.

Addressing Radiology Challenges
The challenges faced by all of us in 2012 will require creative, innovative solutions. The challenges are not new, but the importance of addressing them is growing rapidly. We believe our partnership approach will increasingly serve as the model for innovative thinking as we all address those challenges.

-Les Mann

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