American College of Radiology challenges secrecy, ‘power imbalance’ wielded by ABR

The American College of Radiology and its members are taking the agency that certifies imaging physicians to task for its alleged lack of transparency and “power imbalance” over the field.

ACR outlined its concerns with the American Board of Radiology, and the nonprofit’s “maintenance of certification” program, in a resolution passed on Tuesday. The board has recently come under fire for quietly updating the materials providers must sign, adding a stipulation that radiologists must agree to waive their legal rights as part of certification.

Such changes were specifically mentioned in an earlier version of the resolution, proposed by the Tennessee Radiological Society. In the final version—approved May 19 at ACR’s online annual meeting—ACR urged certifying bodies like the Board of Radiology to gather feedback, first, before making similar modifications in the future. This would include sharing early drafts of participation agreements with the field and considering radiologists’ input before finalizing them.

“The official position of the ACR is that any boards certifying diagnostic radiologists, interventional radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, radiation oncologists, and medical physicists should act in a manner to ensure appropriate balance between all parties, and never act in any manner that directly, indirectly, or otherwise effectively requires radiology professionals to waive any of their fundamental due process rights” the college said.

A Board of Radiology spokesman did not have comment on the resolution as of late Wednesday. The ABR did, however, remove the indemnity clause from its documents last month “in response to concerns.” In an interview with Radiology Business Journal published April 16, ABR President Brent Wagner, MD, conceded that his organization has been communication-challenged in the past, but emphasized that he believes “we’re doing better.”

The college’s resolution is merely symbolic, since ABR is an independent entity. However, the Tennessee Radiological Society, in the earlier version of the resolution, noted the “profound power” the board has over ACR constituents, with the college requiring certification as part of its own membership, and many hospitals and radiology practices doing the same as a condition of employment.

Ben White, MD—a Texas neuroradiologist, blogger and ABR critic—urged the college to adopt the resolution this week, prior to its approval, while also admitting it will have little to no effect.

“We should demand transparency and excellence from any organization that has an impact on our field and our practice. And if the ACR will not take a stand for radiologists then who will?” White said in written testimony, shared on his blog Tuesday. “This resolution could be a small first step toward creating a more meaningful working relationship.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly labeled a draft version of ACR's resolution as the final document. Radiology Business regrets this error.