The sum of its parts – Segment 2

Yesterday I provided an overview of the metamorphosis of diagnostic imaging over the past 20 years and described the four main components of a modern radiology practice. Today, we take a look at how the integrated, synergistic approach to diagnostic imaging is greater than the sum of its parts.

We are talking about synergy. The health of a radiology practice is determined by how well the four main pillars discussed in segment 1 work together. Healthy groups will have integrated all of these components into a unified, efficient and well-maintained practice where all of the radiologists participate—not only with the daily needs of diagnostic imagining, but at all levels in the hospital and with various levels of patient care. A partnership between teleradiology and conventional radiology takes advantage of the available synergies and provides the best possible support to patients, clinicians and hospitals.

Combining the synergies of conventional radiology groups and teleradiology providers will improve the strength of both groups in 6 different areas including:

1.      Improvement in the quality of interpretations.

Subspecialized radiologists tend to have more focused and specific reports. Also, subspecialty radiologists discuss patient care specifics and the implications of the imaging findings with our colleagues with a greater depth of knowledge. And, as we focus our quality assurance efforts not only on accuracy but also on the quality of the report in relation to patient care, we will deliver a better product and service to our clinical colleagues.

Effective and timely patient care requires high quality, accurate interpretations delivered at the time of care. Teleradiology partners enhance the group’s ability to support higher quality  patient care by  having subspecialty imaging and interpretation available 24/7. Being immediately available for consultation to our clinical colleagues regardless of the time of day improves their ability to treat their patients with confidence.

2.      Improvement in the quality of imaging services.

Operating a radiology practice or diagnostic imaging department is more than just providing interpretations. It is also important to support the technologists who provides our images. Ensuring the technologist has appropriate and immediately available support is important. It is also about being involved with departmental operations, providing administrative support and guidance with respect to imaging protocols, equipment needs and technologist training.

The synergies between a conventional practice and a teleradiology practice make the best possible team to provide this support. Technologists always have a radiologist to turn to for questions or help. Radiologists in the conventional practice can load balance with their teleradiology partners to allow time to become involved with additional patient care duties and departmental leadership.

3.      Appropriate utilization and patient safety.

One of the most effective ways to improve and ensure appropriate utilization is simply to be available. Decreasing the inappropriate use of imaging decreases the inappropriate use of radiation— thus also lowering the risk of complications associated with the use of contrast. Teleradiology partners are available for consultation 24/7.

4.      Improved services to our physician colleagues and other health care professionals.

Being available 24/7 significantly improves our ability to impact patient care. We should strive to provide a standard of care that is 24/7 without gaps where our patients and colleagues may be underserved and patients are most vulnerable to delayed or improper medical care.

Teleradiology partners provide all levels of service and expertise when the patient and clinician need subspecialty interpretation and consultation the most.

5.      Decreased Cost and improved satisfaction.

Allowing the conventional radiology practice to focus on practice growth, further subspecialization and interventional procedures, teleradiology practices provide interpretation services to cover gaps and hard to cover areas. Improved service, improved efficiency, appropriate utilization, higher quality and more accurate interpretations all lead to decreased cost and increased clinician, patient and hospital administration satisfaction.

6.      Building Healthy Hospital Systems.

A healthy diagnostic imaging practice and department provides the foundation for a healthy hospital and hospital system. Hospital administrators looking for strength in a radiology practice should look for a practice that supports all levels of patient care at all times of the day and night. Hospital administrators trying to secure a sound imaging groundwork for their hospital or hospital system should look for a practice that is involved and takes advantage of all the tools at its disposal – including teleradiology.

Taking advantage of the synergy between conventional and teleradiology practices is the best way to provide diagnostic imaging services. Conventional practices that use this approach have a healthier practice with more professionally satisfied radiologists. Radiologists who effectively synergize their  practice have the opportunity to participate more frequently and fully with hospital committees, hospital and system growth, research and other activities with our clinical colleagues.

In the coming months, I will be expanding views on each of these topics to illustrate how a synergistic approach makes the most sense for present and future radiologists as hospital systems continue to make difficult decisions in a tumultuous financial climate. Demonstrating structural value over implied “necessity” will be a more important task in the coming years if imaging is to maintain a helpful patient-care presence in the world of medicine.

-Dr. Timothy Myers

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