Radiology practices looking to compare their performance with similar providers nationwide now have a new resource: a set of findings-based benchmarks derived from more than 22 million imaging studies from 2,000 facilities in all 50 states.

Virtual Radiologic (vRad) has released the first of its Radiology Patient Care (RPC) Indices, a data set compiled from its own clinical database, for free download on its website. The information is normalized on key variables such as patient age, gender, body region, geography, hospital and IDN type, bed size, modality, reasons for study order, and findings status.

Access to such metrics is becoming increasingly critical, but effective solutions didn’t currently exist on the scale vRad required, said Ben Strong, MD, the company’s chief medical officer. As a result, the company spent the last two years creating customized informatics tools. “Analytics are no longer an option; they are a requirement. In value-based healthcare, you won’t get paid for quality if you can’t prove it. And you can’t prove it if you don’t measure it,” he said.

One of the hurdles involved comparing data from different healthcare facilities. The RPC normalizes data sets so they can serve as an effective yardstick as the healthcare market moves from a fee-for-volume to fee-for-value model, said Ingrid Lund, practice manager for the Imaging Performance Partnership at the Advisory Board Company.

The first set of indices studies the use of Computed Tomography in Emergency Departments (ED) nationally. According to vRad, EDs have become a driving force in nationwide healthcare costs, now accounting for about half of all U.S. hospital admissions. A RAND Corporation study from May 2013 found that physicians increasingly send patients to EDs instead of admitting them to the hospital.

“As healthcare moves quickly towards an accountable care environment, RPC Indices will help radiology become a strategic partner to be heard from, rather than a cost center to be managed,” said Jim Burke, CEO, vRad. “We already see examples of how RPC Indices are helping our practice and those of our partners improve operational efficiencies and the quality of care for the patient communities we collectively serve.”