RSNA R&E Foundation funds policy education overhaul among other research and education initiatives

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The RSNA Research and Education (R&E) will award $4 million in grants in 2017, funding 30 percent of all grant applications. 50 institutions from across the globe will receive grants funding for a variety of research and educational objectives, including a sorely-needed overhaul to radiology policy education.

“The pay line of 30 percent of grant submissions is approximately three times that of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and positions the R&E Foundation as a valuable partner to younger investigators conducting the feasibility studies needed to compete for NIH and other federal funding,” said N. Reed Dunnick, MD, chair of the R&E Foundation Board of Trustees.

Previous R&E Grant awardees have gone on to develop a new genetic test for Alzheimer’s, expand screening for sickle cell disease in Nigeria, and investigate the neurological effects of childhood malnutrition—among other endeavors.

One standout project from the 2017 batch of awardees comes from Emory University’s Rich Duszak, MD, Professor and Vice Chair for Health Policy and Practice at the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences.

Duszak proposed an open-access economics and policy curriculum for radiology residencies, intended to shore up non-clinical education that may be lacking at smaller institutions.

“Larger programs like ours have hundreds of faculty and people like me with expertise, but smaller programs can struggle,” said Duszak, in an interview with Radiology Business. “As health policy and economics continue to be a matter of national discussion, there’s an increasing expectation for physicians to have an understanding of these issues.”

Called the Radiology Economics and Policy Learning Toolkit (REPLēT), Duszak and collaborators will build an online library of video podcasts on a variety of topics, replete with tests and milestone tracking tied to Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and American Board of Radiology competency levels. The materials used to prepare the lectures will also be available to instructors, so faculty can eventually build their own curriculum with the end goal of each program becoming self-sustaining once the expertise is built at a particular institution.

Proper documentation and health policy are two central themes of the curriculum. Learning how CPT codes are developed or how a service is valued by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can give trainees the tools to extricate practice-level impact of federal policy or advocate on behalf of the specialty. Practice management is another key focus of the program, according to Duszak.

“How does a biling cycle work, what happens after you dictate your case, how does cash flow work in a revenue cycle,” he said. “Not everybody needs to be an expert in the area but we need to understand things so we can work with the coders, billers, and business managers, rather than doing things in our own vacuum.”

An age of increasing consolidation in the radiology space has led to more and more radiologists becoming employees. While some are happy with those roles, others are choosing corporate employment models because the business side of healthcare has become overwhelming, according to Duszak.

“Part of the hope here is we’ll be able to demystify and democratize this kind of expertise,” he said. “We want radiologists to feel comfortable speaking to Chief Medical Officers at insurance companies, or to feel comfortable going to a business manager to negotiate a contract.”

While the grant doesn’t officially begin until July 1, Duszak has been working overtime to ensure he hits the ground running, aiming for a large-scale rollout at the 103rd RSNA Annual Meeting in November 2017.