It’s already Spring 2017, so if you're a clinician with a sizeable Medicare patient caseload, you're almost halfway through the first year in which you need to capture performance data to earn potentially big bonus dollars—or avoid increasingly painful deductions—starting in 2019. And if your specialty is radiology, be it diagnostic or interventional, you have some participation options unavailable to many other physicians. 

When Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center made the bold decision in 2010 to launch a structured reporting system, leaders within the radiology department knew they were bucking more than 100 years of history. That’s how long prose reports have been the radiologists’ definitive work product, a fierce source of professional pride and personal identity that had stubbornly resisted change even as new reporting techniques sprouted around them—techniques that could provide greater consistency and more robust, mineable reports that facilitate faster payment.

Shortly before her 40th birthday, a woman visits her primary care physician and is advised she should schedule her first mammogram. The patient is puzzled and says she “read somewhere” that she can wait a few years. The physician has heard this before and kindly convinces the patient to comply with the recommendation. She agrees, schedules the mammogram and receives her results before even leaving the imaging facility. 

As healthcare policies continue to emphasize value-based care, the tracking and management of data has become more important in radiology than ever before. And while turnaround time was once the primary metric used for measuring quality of care and service throughout the imaging industry, it is no longer the only game in town. 

Deep learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are gaining more and more momentum in radiology. While some physicians are slow to embrace this vision and trend, fretting over their own job security, others in the industry are inspired by the endless possibilities. The long-term vision positions AI at the center of momentous change in radiology while also pushing the practice of medicine, disease management and physician efficiency forward at a rapid pace. 

2017 is a year of significant change for RBMA. This year, the association has consolidated its two largest annual meetings—Radiology Summit and the Fall Educational Conference—into one larger meeting: RBMA PaRADigm.Jim Hamilton, MHA, CMM, is the president of RBMA and the administrator and business manager for Medical Imaging Physicians, an 18-radiologist practice in Dayton, Ohio. Hamilton spoke with Radiology Business Journal about RBMA PaRADigm and also touched on how significant changes in the imaging industry have impacted 

Of all the problems besetting the health status of the U.S. population, the raging opioid epidemic might be the most maddening. In many ways, it’s a self-inflicted wound. A lot of people have a legitimate need for pharmacological relief from physical pain. But how did we get from, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning” to 259 million opioid prescriptions—more than enough to give every American adult his or her own supply? The answer is that greedy drug companies, harried doctors, opportunistic street operators and, yes, intemperate patients have all played a part.

All signs indicate that the radiology job market is turning around. The number of available positions in 2016 well exceeded the number of finishing trainees, and this trend is expected to continue as more senior radiologists retire or cut back. A 2013 Health Affairs study projected that as the U.S. population ages, demand for radiology services will grow approximately 18 percent between 2013 and 2025 (Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Nov;32(11):2013-20). 

As research director of a policy think tank dedicated to medical imaging, I’m frequently asked how radiologists—and their practices—will fit into the broader healthcare landscape once the current tumultuous healthcare environment evolves into stable equilibrium. Of course, whether we do see a stable equilibrium is a questionable assumption in itself, but it doesn’t hurt to put on our futurist hats and explore how this may look for radiology. 

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