Decreasing reimbursement and the shift toward accountable care are changing the dynamic as it relates to the role of the radiologist. In addition, Stage 2 Meaningful Use requires health care organizations to provide access to patients’ images via their electronic health records, which will enable all clinicians to access images. As part of these changes, instead of acting as an island, many radiology groups are realizing the importance of tightly aligning themselves in joint ventures with hospitals. In order to make this type of alignment possible, radiologists need to, first and foremost, prove their value as it relates to improved patient care.
With a focus on improving patient outcomes, increasing patient engagement, and cutting costs associated with care, radiologists have a lot to consider as they look for ways to differentiate their offering and adapt to these broad-based changes in order to appeal to referring physicians and providers at large. These mounting changes are a reminder of the importance of ensuring you, as a radiologist, are proving your direct impact on patient care. Still, all of this begs the question: How can radiologists prove their value in this new era of reform and outcome-based care?
Prove Your Value with Enhanced Delivery of Results
The diagnostic report is the primary work product by which a referring physician evaluates a radiologist. Today, advanced technologies are playing a large role in streamlining the creation and delivery of these reports. As radiologists look for ways to help referring physicians improve patient care, it is imperative that they consider the following factors:
- Building a professional connection with referring physicians
- Improving the timeliness of their reports
- Personalizing the delivery of their results to meet the unique needs of their referring physicians
- Providing richer reports with more complete data and key images
- Decreasing costs associated with imaging
Two technologies that can help radiologists address the five key factors for consideration mentioned above—and therefore enable referring physicians to do their job in a more informed and efficient fashion—are speech-enabled radiology reporting and advanced visualization. One of the main benefits of speech-enabled reporting is that it allows radiologists to dictate and self-edit information in real time, which helps provide referring physicians with faster results. For those who choose not to self-edit, speech-enabled reporting still holds great value in increasing the productivity of the medical transcription process.
Two other unique features of this technology are its ability to automate workflow by providing structured content and its data integration capabilities, which enable the inclusion of information from equipment like ultrasound devices and radiation dose reporting systems. These automated features ensure an accurate, consistent, and easy-to-read report for referring physicians, even across a diverse group of radiologists. This diagnostic imaging report is then more readily available for referring physicians through their electronic health record system or through a referring physician portal. The fact that speech-enabled reporting significantly reduces report turnaround time while improving accuracy through the integration of information has a major impact on referring physicians’ ability to provide more timely and effective treatment of the patient.
Barbara Dumery, Director of Diagnostic Solutions Marketing, Nuance Healthcare
Advanced visualization is a second technology worth noting as it enables radiologists to provide a better end product for referring physicians. This technology helps referring physicians improve patient care by providing image details that were previously not viewable, and also allowing for a better representation of real-life anatomy. Moreover, imaging modalities produce an exorbitant amount of images. With advanced visualization, these same images are presented in a global volumetric display so as to streamline workflow for physicians who are already juggling their fair share of patient care duties.
In addition to speech-enabled reporting and data visualization, it is worth considering the implications of wider mobile adoption among referring physicians and their patients—particularly as it relates to reducing turnaround times for delivery of diagnostic imaging reports. With improvements to the most recent release of the iPad, it is expected that the use of mobile technology among the medical community will become pervasive. Moreover, the medical community is already seeing a proliferation of patients who are looking to immediately review their imaging reports. In fact, just this month, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center published a pilot study that found participants wanted immediate access to their reports, despite not being able to completely understand the terminology. Moving forward, radiologists will need to consider referring physician demand for access to real-time and mobile-friendly diagnostic images they can immediately share with patients for reassurance.
Care Collaboration Case Study
Texas Radiology Associates (TRA) is one medical imaging group that is leveraging speech and advanced visualization solutions to help address referring physician needs. TRA is a hospital-based practice with 75 radiologists, and they have integrated radiology speech recognition and advanced visualization into the Texas Health Presbyterian—WNJ’s PACS to increase efficiency, provide more personalized reports, and cut hospital costs. Prior to implementing speech-enabled reporting, the hospital’s average report turnaround time was 12 hours. The hospital had considered using voice recognition, and when TRA offered to replace its transcription service with speech recognition, the hospital was excited by the prospect to cut costs and time associated with radiology reporting.
As a result of implementing a speech-enabled reporting solution into their PACS, a dramatic improvement in TRA’s professional radiology service has been realized and is evidenced by the increase in physician satisfaction they are experiencing. Today, TRA is using speech-enabled reporting to generate 60,000 reports per year and they have incurred the following benefits: 90% of reports are completed within 2 hours, and 80% are completed within 30 minutes.
From a non-IT perspective, TRA radiologist John Kim, MD, offered a few other suggestions for radiologists to consider as they look for ways to add value for referring physicians and their patients:
- Be Human—take the time to consider the patient at hand and actually speak with referring physicians in order to provide a human touch in key care communications.
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- Play It Straight—answer the specific questions referring physicians ask and pull in subspecialty experts as needed.
- Know Your Audience—tailor reports to your referring physicians by leveraging structured format and content, which allows for consistency and easy readability.
Radiology: An Integral Part of the Patient Care Equation
As radiology groups look to pursue joint ventures with hospitals in an effort to remain viable, they need to continue to seek out ways to streamline report access and diagnosis for referring physicians while also building personal connections with them. In the end, radiologists need to master people skills and technology in order to find the right balance and prove their true value in this period of change.
The relationship between radiologists and referring physicians is a symbiotic one that involves a shared overarching goal—improved patient outcomes. With an understanding of the needs of their referring physicians and the right tools to provide diagnostic images that live up to today’s new standards, radiologists can map out a path to success and prove their unquestionable value in the improved patient care equation.
Barbara Dumery is the Director of Diagnostic Solutions Marketing at Nuance Healthcare. She joined Nuance in 2006 and has over 15 years of experience in health care IT.