The American College Of Radiology And The Changing Roles Of Its Members
The role of radiologists is evolving in healthcare due to technological advancements and regulatory changes associated with the Affordable Care Act and health care reform. As a result, radiologists are redefining their interaction with patients, other physicians and researchers.
Diagnostic imaging is a critical component of the health care process, but in recent years interactions between radiologists and referring physicians have decreased, says Mike Tilkin, the chief information officer at the American College of Radiology (ACR).
The rise in volume due to high demand for imaging and the efficiencies of digital imaging over film-based alternatives result in radiologists more likely to interact with referring physicians through electronic reports, than in a room discussing film together. With these changes, ACR is actively encouraging radiologists to leverage technology to increase their visibility in the health care system.
ACR—a professional medical society of radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and other health professionals—launched an initiative called “Imaging 3.0” several years ago to recognize the evolution within health care from a volume-based system to a value-based system.
As imaging technology improved, the demand for imaging skyrocketed, and radiologists needed tools to keep up with the high volume of imaging requests. The era of the “invisible radiologist” was born, with radiologists being servants of their work lists, divorced from their referrers and removed from patient interaction. But now there are efforts at ACR to help demonstrate that radiologists and their imaging studies bring value to patients and the health care process beyond a commoditized report.
“A lot of the technology solutions being worked on are really focused on helping our members optimize patient care and succeed in this value-based world,” Tilkin said. “That means tying imaging results to electronic health records and clinical research databases to help evaluate the efficacy and the importance of imaging in the continuum of care.”
For example, ACR conducted the National Lung Screening Trial, which showed how early screening can impact outcomes for lung cancer patients. The trial compared two methods of detecting lung cancer: spiral computed tomography (CT) and standard chest X-rays.
The study results showed that patients who received the CT scans had a 15–20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays. The results of the study were used to promote lung screening as an important dimension of clinical care as well as promote payment reform associated with insurance reimbursement for lung screening. “These studies can have a profound impact on clinical care and population health,” Tilkin said.
ACR is using technological innovations to move radiology’s support infrastructure into this value-based world. “One of the opportunities we have as we move forward is working on solutions that demonstrate the value of the radiologists and help connect them to patients, physicians and researchers,” Tilkin said.
New IT and informatics systems are helping bring better information to radiologists during interpretation as well as provide better integration with electronic medical records, clinical research systems and tools to support population health.
“We’re now in a patient-centric world, and we need to help convey that imaging experts and their expertise need to be provided throughout the care continuum,” Tilkin said.