By Aine Cryts

Radiologists’ early adoption and acceptance of artificial intelligence will allow them to focus on value-based care, Jennifer Kemp, MD, vice president of Lakewood-based Diversified Radiology of Colorado tells AXIS Imaging News. Kemp says the role of the radiologist today is “everything it has always been and more.”

“It has always been [about] making sure the patient has the safest exam possible that will answer the [clinical] question at hand,” she says. In the future, the radiologist will continue to provide a report to the ordering clinician—that’s in addition to continuing to integrate all imaging data to derive the most comprehensive diagnosis and treatment, adds Kemp.

As part of an ongoing series about the changing role of the radiologist, AXIS Imaging News recently discussed this topic with Kemp. What follows is a version of that conversation that has been lightly edited for clarity.

AXIS Imaging News: What will tomorrow’s radiologists be doing?

Jennifer Kemp: Radiologists of the future will allow artificial intelligence to address the more tedious parts of their current workflow. In turn, that will leave radiologists with more time to focus on value-based care.

Radiologists will be more available for consultations. We’ll host virtual consults that allow for real-time interaction with images. In addition, radiologists will be more active participants in hospital multidisciplinary conferences. Alongside our standard reports for clinicians, we’ll provide patient-friendly reports. And EHR data will be automatically integrated into our workflow and reports.

AXIS: Explain how you view value-based care as a radiologist.

Kemp: Traditionally, it’s been tricky to define value-based care in radiology. When the term “value-based care” was first tossed out, the only metric radiologists really had was turnaround time.

Most would agree that speed is really only value-added to a certain point. ‘Value-based care’ means having actionable reports, with clear language, backed up by data. It also means that radiologists are readily available to ordering clinicians, technologists, and patients before imaging exams are ordered in order to better understand the patient’s clinical scenario and, thereby, recommend the most appropriate exam based on our improved knowledge.

The value radiologists bring also includes the ability to explain and discuss our interpretations with clinicians and patients; that will give us improved context, which will improve our interpretations and report quality.

In addition, radiologists will be more available for multi-disciplinary meetings and tumor boards, and positioning our reading rooms within subspecialty clinics will become a more routine practice.

AXIS: How is access to information an important part of value-based care?

Kemp: Patients’ access to information is key to patient engagement and empowerment. When patients are educated about their health and participate in healthcare decisions, it can lead to improved outcomes.

Radiologists’ access to information is also important. We must find a better way to share radiology images across different hospital systems so that exams aren’t needlessly repeated. Easy access to pathology reports, operative reports, and labs is valuable to radiologists when interpreting studies.

AXIS: What’s one of the most profound changes you’re seeing in radiology today and what impact will it have on the specialty?

Kemp: For the most part, radiologists are as efficient as we’re going to get; most of us are maxed out and many of us are burned out. Artificial intelligence will help us deal with the increasing amount of work and the increasing demands on our services while shifting our focus to human qualities, such as sound judgment, empathy, and communication.

Radiologists will be able to slow down and embrace value-based care. We’ll have time to experience the joy of practicing radiology as we work more closely with our patients and referring physicians—and this will help us see how our specialty is impacting their lives. To quote Arun Krishnaraj, MD, professor of radiology and medical imaging at the University of Virginia, “the best radiologists will be defined not by their eyes but by their hearts.”