It’s said you can’t improve something unless you measure it. As the industry transitions to value-based care models, improving the contribution radiologists and radiology departments make to high-value patient care starts with measuring — or defining — what exactly their role is.

Radiologists’ Role Expands with Value-Based Care

I would define the role of radiologists and radiology departments in the value-based reimbursement era as twofold. First is the traditional part of the role. That’s capturing diagnostic images, reading the images correctly and sharing that information with physicians who use the information to make the appropriate treatment decisions for their patients. That role is as important as it ever was, but doing it well becomes even more so under value-based reimbursement models that pay clinicians based on how well they meet various clinical and financial performance measures.

Three Ways Radiologists Can Expand Their Patient Care RoleThe second part of the role is less technical and more personal. That’s coordinating and collaborating with the broader patient care team during a patient’s entire episode of care. That means working with the care team up front to decide what diagnostic images need to be captured and interpreted. It means capturing the images, reading them correctly and sharing the information with the care team. It means discussing with the care team other clinical issues that were detected during an imaging procedure. And it means working with the care team to analyze and interpret all the findings to help determine the best treatment options for the patient and whether additional imaging procedures are needed.

Traditionally, this component of the role of radiologists and radiology departments largely has been optional. But value-based reimbursement plans are making it mandatory as team-based, coordinated care that includes radiologists and radiology departments in order to drive better clinical and financial outcomes.

Technical, Financial and Clinical Role Support

Now that we’ve measured — or defined — radiology’s role in patient care in a value-based reimbursement world, how do we improve — or maximize — that role? Radiologists and radiology departments can maximize their contribution to high-value patient care three ways, and that’s through technical, financial and clinical innovation.

1.Technical innovation: This falls into two buckets. In the first bucket are new imaging technologies that dramatically improve the diagnostic imaging capabilities of radiologists and radiology departments in terms of both quantity and quality. Such technologies allow clinicians to process large volumes of precision images and navigate through the images quickly to extract the right clinical information. By integrating new imaging technologies with other patient information systems like EHRs, radiologists and radiology departments can build comprehensive views of patients from the inside out. In the second bucket are advances in information technologies that allow radiologists and radiology departments to store and share their comprehensive clinical views of patients electronically with all members of the care team in real-time across all devices, whether they’re laptops, desktops, imaging stations, smartphones or tablets.

2. Financial innovation: This starts with the recognition that what radiologists and radiology department do affects everyone’s reimbursement, not just the salaries or fees of individual clinicians. So it’s not just reading as many images as possible under fee-for-service medicine. It’s reading them as efficiently and as accurately as possible and sharing the results as quickly as possible with the care team. That approach helps produce the best-possible clinical outcomes for patients at the lowest possible operating costs to the group or hospital. Radiologists and radiology departments should be well-versed in the outcome measures they report to payers, and they should be well-versed in the outcome measures their group or hospital report to payers. For example, by seeing how their work affects hospital readmission rates—and financial penalties for excessive readmission—radiologists and radiology departments will be prepared to take on the second piece of their new role, coordinating and collaborating with the broader care team as patients move along the continuum of care in one setting or across multiple settings.

3.Clinical innovation: This grows out of technical and financial information, and that’s the need for radiologists and radiology departments to take on more responsibilities as equal members of the clinical care team. Radiologists and radiology departments must be less granular and less specialized—here’s what the diagnostic image shows and you decide what to do with the information—and become more generalized—here’s what the diagnostic image shows, here’s what I think it means in the context of the other clinical data we have and here’s what I think we should do next.

Finding the Right Partners to Fulfill Role

For today’s changing industry focused on value-based care, radiologists and radiology departments need to grow into a new and expanded role as a valued member of a coordinated, patient care team. Technical, financial and clinical innovation can help radiologists and radiology departments fulfill that new role. So, too, can the right imaging partner.

I would urge radiologists to ask vendors and industry peers the following questions about technical, financial and clinical innovation. Is their imaging technology interoperable? Are they involved in open information technology standards development? Do they provide care under value-based reimbursement contracts? Are they working with radiologists and radiology departments that are part of value-based reimbursement contracts? If so, what kind? What have been the results? Have they made the transition from specialist to generalist on the patient care team? How did they successfully overcome the barriers to making that transition?

With their help, radiologists and radiology departments can measure and improve their role in patient care.

This post originally published as Technical, Financial, and Clinical Innovations that Radiologists Can Leverage to Expand Their Role in Patient Care on McKesson's Medical Imaging Talk Blog.

Related: Learn about McKesson’s Radiology Solutions.

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About the author

Scott Galbari is vice president of marketing and portfolio at McKesson Imaging and Workflow Solutions. Prior to joining the McKesson IWS Executive Leadership Team in 2016, he was the General Manager of Enterprise Informatics at Vital Images Inc. and R&D Site Manager at Agfa Healthcare.