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Undoubtedly, healthcare is in a major transformation and has been for some time. It’s not just about the change, but the pace is unparalleled compared to almost any industry at any given time. The challenges most health systems and academic medical centers face today are unmatched – simply keeping up does not lead to long-term survivability.

Downward pressures from reduced reimbursement, an uneven balance of Medicaid adoption, the migration to value-based care and hospital consolidation are just some of the disrupting factors. Impacts from these changes are felt not just by hospital administrators, but by patients whose care is affected. An aging baby boomer population, complicated chronic disease management and the explosion of consumerism are causing health systems even more challenges. Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs), community hospitals and academic medical centers are seeking new ways to be competitive, increase quality and focus on expanding service lines, all just to simply survive in many cases.

Radiology as a Driver of Success

Sustainability and creating an environment in which a health system can thrive are the new focus of delivery networks, while keeping quality squarely in the center of patient care. How are health systems handling this balancing act as their regulatory, reimbursement and competitive footing constantly shifts?

Many health systems are looking internally, operationally and clinically, to find ways to run a dual thread – improve the quality required to migrate to a value-based model while seeking long-term models for sustainability. There are obvious places to look, such as enhancing processes and controls to increase efficiency.

One of the most impactful areas a health system can improve is within its imaging services where almost every patient is seen and where a misdiagnosis can lead to complications and readmissions later in the care process, affecting quality and outcomes. Radiology is the foundation of quality for most cases — simple to complex.

Additionally, radiology finds itself as one of the most vital cogs in a health system’s ecosystem, helping hospitals be more competitive and improving the financial challenges by supplementing critical service lines and attracting and retaining the lifeblood of any hospital – patients and physicians.

Subspecialization as a Differentiator

And radiology continues to specialize, which is a great benefit for most health systems as they keep up with demand and support referring physicians with their goals of providing the best care possible. Imaging subspecialization is no longer an option for IDNs, academic medical centers and community hospitals. Once only available in discrete healthcare settings, subspecialization is now a necessity at any acute care facility.

For diagnostic imaging, this is an impossible scenario. Hospitals and local radiology groups simply can’t afford to employ the level of subspecialty expertise expected today. They are searching for solutions that provide local imaging leadership, with access to specialists all hours of the day and night. This is a unique model clearly differentiated from teleradiology because of the requirement for local, onsite radiology leaders combined with deep subspecialist access that can provide immediacy and direct physician-to-physician consultation in complex cases.

The Future of Radiology

Health systems must treat radiology as a priority and the starting point for quality care where there is no room for error, and as an integral component of maintaining and driving relationships with referring physicians.

That requires radiology to step up. Radiologists should have leadership roles that use their abilities as boardroom-level administrators and as a central force in the clinical operations of a health system. Imaging services must be aligned with a delivery network’s strategic goals for patient care, quality initiatives, growth and competitiveness.

To accomplish this, radiology as a service within a health system will need to be more efficient, focused on measurement of quality outcomes and committed to eliminating wasted time by improving processes. Automation, new workflow models and technology will have to replace archaic methods and leverage the full capabilities of radiologists to drive higher levels of quality and greater efficiency. The new model requires a unification of technology, systems and staff backed by best practices from organizations such as the American College of Radiology and RSNA, along with implementation of efficiency and accountability programs like Six Sigma.

The result is the ability to turn around final reads quickly with higher accuracy rates, eliminating the need to rely on prelims for diagnosis. Physicians treating patients in emergent or acute situations would be able receive higher quality reads in shorter timeframes and can treat their patients at the levels of care and expediency their patients expect. Patients with chronic conditions could count even more on their coordinated care team to administer ongoing treatment with higher degrees of certainty that their care plans are effective for the long term.

This future radiology model is being delivered today with an unmatched melding of processes, automation, seamless workflow and quality. Subspecialists are available 24 hours a day, every day for immediate consultation and care coordination. Importantly, health systems are able to deliver on their promise of creating clinical excellence in their communities. Read more about the newest hybrid radiology model that helps hospitals not only thrive, but survive in today’s challenging healthcare environment.

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