Radiologists must ‘lean in’ to disruption, forge alliances to win in 2020, experts say

Disruptors such as Google and Walmart are turning healthcare upside down in 2020, and radiology is no exception. Practices that embrace this transformation, rather than running away from it, will come out ahead in the long run.

Experts from Johns Hopkins’ Department of Radiology and consulting firm Accenture recently made their pitch for this mindset in a new commentary, published last month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. Artificial intelligence is already beginning to upend imaging, and the authors expect other emerging technologies will continue reinventing radiology “more quickly than any other medical specialty.”

Accenture’s Jim Traficant and colleagues believe practice leaders must forge alliances with these disruptors in the near-term, or risk getting left behind.

“Radiology departments should lean in, harness the disruption and build strategic partnerships to frame new delivery and business models,” wrote Traficant, managing director for federal health at the Ireland-based company, and colleagues. “Healthcare entities that insulate themselves will be squeezed by disruptive forces including policy, technology, consumer demand and the competitive ecosystems attacking legacy care and business models,” he added.

The authors noted that healthcare disruption is different from other industries in that it is “being disrupted from the outside in by nontraditional powerhouses from adjacent markets.” They pointed specifically to Apple, Google and Walmart, which are “prioritizing health in their growth strategies.” The latter, in particular, has taken a few recent bites at the periphery of radiology, including adding basic x-ray services at a few of its centers.

However, established radiology practices and other providers have a leg-up in this transformation because they possess consumer trust, Traficant and colleagues noted. Imaging leaders can capitalize on this faith by either defending their current brand and operating model, or leveraging it to create a new future. “The takeaway here is embrace the disruption or be disrupted,” the team wrote.

Accenture estimated that AI could save healthcare upward of $150 billion by 2026, through automating back-office functions and clinical processes. Google is already making a big play in AI, with its own system demonstrating “impressive” results in more accurately detecting breast cancer than human radiologists. Clinicians should capitalize now on these trends before it’s too late, the piece concluded.

“Trust is the fundamental value driver, and traditional healthcare brands own it,” Johns Hopkins and Accenture noted. “Outside disruptors will partner to get it. This is the market window to build your ecosystem and reposition your trusted healthcare brand in the new world order.”