After checking in with the powers that be, there are still more questions than answers for radiology as the health care revolution gets under way.

Marianne Matthews

Think you have a hard job? Try being a Czar.

Health Reform “Czar,” Nancy-Ann DeParle, is charged with overhauling a broken health care system. Her job means finding ways to provide access to quality health care for some 46 million uninsured Americans. At the same time, she is responsible for reducing wildly spiraling health care costs. According to a report prepared by CMS’s Office of Actuary, health spending increased from $2.2 trillion in 2007 to $2.4 trillion in 2008.

Then there is David Blumenthal, MD, President Obama’s pick to serve as Health IT “Czar.” As stated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Blumenthal is charged with leading the effort to modernize the health care system by spurring the adoption of interoperable health information technology by 2014, thereby reducing health costs for the federal government by an estimated $12 billion over 10 years.

Tall orders. Tight time frames. Tough gigs.

DeParle and Blumenthal are two of the most powerful players on the health care stage today. Naturally, I was curious about how each saw the role of radiology in meeting the Obama administration’s goals. I hoped to include comments from both in this special issue. Despite diligent efforts, I was unable to connect with either Czar personally. But I did get some satisfaction in learning that radiology and radiologists are on the radar screen at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).

I was aiming for answers to some key questions. Chief among them: As the ONC moves toward implementation of the health IT goals of the ARRA, will they be seeking any input from the radiology community? Will there be any Stimulus incentives for the adoption of PACS/RIS? Will PACS be a required component of an electronic health record? If e-prescribing becomes a requirement for meaningful EHR, how will that impact on private practice radiologists who do not prescribe drugs? How will imaging centers be affected in this new era of interconnectivity? Will they be required to invest in new technology in order to share imaging studies with certified EHR systems?

In an e-mail response from ONC office staff, I was told that while my questions were quite appropriate, the specifics are not yet available to provide comprehensive responses. I did, however, receive a phone call from Nancy Szemraj, Communications and Outreach Manager for the ONC. She assured me that radiology is an important piece of the puzzle as we move toward a nationwide health IT infrastructure. She noted that as early adopters of technology, radiologists are a vital group of interest. She also suggested that I urge our readers to keep pace with the work of the ONC by visiting and joining the Listserv for automatic updates.

In addition, Szemraj advised that our readers visit to learn more about Recovery Act grant opportunities. There are grants available for researchers at academic institutions. And there are grants for workforce training – an area where radiology could prove instrumental, according to Szemraj.

For radiology, there are still more questions than answers as it concerns the Stimulus and Obama’s plans for health care reform.

This special issue of Axis Imaging News is dedicated to exploring the new administration’s initiatives and their impact on imaging. It’s a solid start. But stay posted, because we’ll be bringing you more news as it unfolds from both the Office of the National Coordinator and the White House Office of Health Reform. After all, the future of health care and radiology is in the Czars.

Marianne Matthews