I’m always harping on putting the care back in healthcare. It has become critical. Vigilant consumers now focus on their own care and that of their loved ones, and they are cranking the expectation of quality up to eleven.
And I’m happy to say healthcare facilities are hearing the tune, as you’ll read this month in an article in this issue: “Strategic Planning: Putting the Patient in the Focal Spot.” Any strategic plan for radiology must address ways to attract patients. Providing the right services in the right place at the right time for a wide variety of patients is vital — as is the quick transmission of results to referring physicians.
“While we always care about the patient’s welfare, there is no question that patient priorities are becoming the driving force behind decisions,” says Hedvig Hricak, M.D., chair of radiology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Progressive technology and patient-sensitive architectural design were two priorities when Memorial Sloan-Kettering opened a new 190,000-square-foot outpatient pavilion last summer.
Ambulatory patients want to get in and out. They don’t want to be treated like they’re sick, and they don’t want to see in-patients.
Patients who walk into a radiology department want to know what is wrong and they want it fixed, fixed right then and there. They expect radiology to define their ailment, quickly and definitively. A well-designed facility with good technology and a skilled staff will accomplish this mission best.
In addition to patient-centered strategic planning, we also look at nuclear medicine this month in a Special Section that contains aritcles on technology, reimbusement and procedures. Nuclear medicine continues to increase its value in traditional oncology and radiology roles. There are new imaging agents, new tecnologies such as multidetector cameras and image fusion (melding CT and SPECT to provide anatomic and functional views), and reimbursement is more widespread, so many radiology facilities see the need to install new units and get these increased imaging capabilities.
PET has been unleashed, now that reimbursement is shining in its favor. (See “PET Set for Growth Boom”) This is the silver anniversary of positron emission technology and there are 180 installations, up from about 50 in 1997. Guaranteed reimbursement and easier access to essential radiopharmaceuticals means PET is no longer a huge risk for healthcare facilities, and the growing number of mobile PET providers say they can reduce the financial risk even further.
PET is a technology educated healthcare consumers want. Once cancer is detected (which happens 1.3 million times in the U.S. annually), PET provides nitty-gritty details to assist planning therapy or intervention. And it provides those details at a lower cost — $5,400 to 32,000 per patient, for example, in the treatment of recurrent colorectal cancer.
But wait, there’s more. PET may be able to provide earlier detection of Alzheimer’s to support new treatments. New radiopharmaceuticals being explored might soon speed disagnosis of prostate cancer, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. PET’s possible role in evaluating the success or failure of gene therapy is also getting airplay.
This is rock and roll technology. Stay tuned for more rock and roll. And on behalf of all those vigilant consumers, thanks for listening!
Mary C. Tierney