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Empowering Radiologists to Standardize Care and Improve Outcomes

Diagnostic decision support for optimal performance

The downstream impact of radiology is significant in today’s healthcare environment. Optimal care often begins with an accurate imaging analysis and its accompanying clinical recommendations. As a specialty, radiology is a growing field of influence in healthcare, accounting for 10% of annual U.S. healthcare spending. In truth, the work of radiologists has broad reach, touching nearly every patient and disease category—which, in turn, opens the door to great risk and great opportunity. Increased performance expectations introduced by value-based care demand that radiologists make the best decisions for each patient. With so much at stake, healthcare organizations must standardize best practices to improve performance with key metrics such as patient safety, mortality, length of stay and patient experience. This eBook aims to educate healthcare stakeholders on the increasingly critical role of reference and decision support tools within radiology.

Radiologist reviewing scans on screens

The teleradiology market is expected to grow from $4.6 billion in 2017 to $21.8 billion by 2026, underscoring increasing demand for radiologic expertise to improve diagnostic turnaround and quality of care.(i)

The Bottom Line on Clinical and Cost Challenges

National healthcare movements are placing greater focus on quality metrics and cost reductions. As one of healthcare’s highest cost centers, radiology is a natural focal point of performance improvement. There is an overutilization of radiology services, increasing risks to patients who receive unnecessary radiation and tests based on meaningless clinical findings. In addition, inadequate subspecialty expertise increases diagnostic errors and litigation, affecting bottom-line fallout. The Journal of the American College of Radiology estimates that, at minimum, a staff of 20 radiologists is needed to provide sufficient expertise across all subspecialties—a difficult goal for most healthcare organizations.

Doctors reviewing scan with patient

JAMA Internal Medicine estimates that between 20% and 50% of inpatient diagnostic imaging is clinically unnecessary, creating an estimated $12 billion in medical imaging waste annually in the U.S.(ii). Current initiatives on the public and private payer front point to increased scrutiny and efforts to ensure more appropriate use of radiologic services. (iii, iv,v)

Empowering radiologists ebook cover

Empowering Radiologists to Standardize Care and Improve Outcomes

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i Teleradiology Services Market. Transparency Market Research. May 28, 2018. in new tab/window ii Neeman, N., Quinn, K., Soni, K. et al. Reducing Radiology Use on an Inpatient Medical Service: Choosing Wisely. The JAMA Network. JAMA Internal Medicine. November 12, iii “2019 Product and Benefit Updates,” BCBS Massachusetts, in new tab/window iv “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Members Get Paid to Shop,” BCBS Massachusetts, v The Medicare Access And CHIP Reauthorization Act: Effects On Medicare Payment Policy And Spending,” Health Affairs, April 7, 2017. vi Askew, J. Where the radiology workforce is headed. Advisory Board. December 22, 2015. in new tab/window vii McDonald, RJ, Schwartz, KM, Eckel, LJ. The effects of changes in utilization and technological advances of cross-sectional imaging on radiologist workload. Academic Radiology. 2015 Sep; 22(9). in new tab/window viii Stempniak M. $2M settlement after subpoena of radiologists’ keystrokes finds lax CT reading. Radiology Business. January 20, 2020. in new tab/window ix Stempniak M. Deceased radiologist’s estate on the hook for $8.1M jury verdict. Radiology Business. January 14, 2020. x Kane L. Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020: The Generational Divide. January 15, 2020. in new tab/window xi Red Signal Report. Coverys. August 2018. in new tab/window xii Ranum D. Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Closed Claims Study. The Doctors Company. December 2019. xiii Huber T, et al., “Impact of a Commercially Available Clinical Decision Support Program on Provider Ordering Habits,” J Am Coll Radiol, 2018. xiii in new tab/window xiv Hsieh P. Doctors use Youtube and Google all the time. Should you be worried? Forbes. December 30, 2019. in new tab/window xiv 86% of physicians use Internet to access health information. January 4, 2010. in new tab/window

The reality is that there is already an existing lack of radiologists to meet market demand, according to the Journal of Academic Radiology. (vi) In addition, imaging volumes are growing at a disproportionate rate to staffing increases. One study found that the average radiologist must now interpret one image every 3-4 seconds to meet workload demands, opening the door to increased error.(vii) Add to that unexpected surges that further tax healthcare resources like that of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the crisis facing diagnostics supply and demand is clearly evident. Amid the convergence of these trends, the industry is also witnessing an uptick in litigation with settlements and verdicts increasingly occurring against the radiologist.(viii,ix). Consequently, it is no surprise that radiologists rank among the top five physicians at greatest risk of burn out.(x) As these challenges converge, the need for consistent, sustainable and credible radiologic care becomes critical.