Looking back at the 2017 ACR Moreton Lecture: 4 key takeaways

The Journal of the American College of Radiology has shared a web version of the Moreton Lecture given by Jeffrey C. Bauer, PhD, at the 2017 American College of Radiology’s annual meeting in May. These are four key takeaways from his speech to attendees:

These are four key takeaways from his speech to attendees:

1. Create opportunity out of chaos.

Bauer opened his lecture by pointing out just how chaotic politics in Washington has become in the last few years. Any profession that sits around and waits for leadership from Capitol Hill or the White House, he said, will likely face significant problems of its own. Instead, radiology must move forward with strength and confidence and “rise above politics.”

“Fortunately, impending chaos creates opportunity,” Bauer said. “History includes example after example of good things that arose from disorder. I see today’s chaotic state of health care as a golden opportunity for radiology to imagine a good future for health care and the profession’s role in creating it. The worst thing we can do is play Chicken Little, expecting the sky to fall because there’s nothing we can do to reverse current trends.”

2. Choose forecasting over predicting.

According to Bauer, radiology must create its own future. But the industry must forecast where things are headed instead of simply making predictions.

What’s the difference, you ask? A prediction, Bauer explained, is “a specific estimate of the expected value of a key variable at a future point in time,” but a forecast is “an estimate of the probabilities of possibilities for a key variable at a future point in time—something very different from the estimate of a single future value.”

“To a forecaster, the future is a range of possibilities,” he added. “The art of forecasting requires an ability to identify these possibilities and the likelihood that each can occur.”

By looking closely at historical data, radiologists can forecast how the future may go and they can act accordingly. It’s like a weatherman saying there is a 75 percent chance of rain and a 25 percent chance of sunshine. The weatherman doesn’t just predict rain and call it a day; he or she provides the odds of each one happening and then people can dress and plan accordingly if they are headed outside.

3. Big changes are coming.

Through his own forecasting abilities, Bauer sees big changes on the horizon in U.S. healthcare. In fact, he thinks more will change in the next five years than changed in the last 50. Bauer mentioned a few specific trends at this point in his lecture: healthcare from acute care to a more team-based form of disease management; advances in AI, telemedicine and data management; the “end of growth” in healthcare spending; and the continued political dysfunction of healthcare reform. All of these factors, he explained, add up to five years of significant change unlike anything this country has ever seen before.

4. Diagnostic convergence: an upcoming opportunity.

Bauer also provided insight into what he sees as a huge opportunity for radiologists, one that might still be up to 5 years away. “I call it diagnostic convergence,” he said. “Research-driven integration of radiology and laboratory medicine to create a unified medical specialty of diagnostic science, focused on eliminating unnecessary overlaps between radiology and pathology, identifying the most cost-effective test, and sequencing tests in accord with economic constraints to optimize population health.”

This “diagnostic convergence” may be years away, but Bauer said it’s something specialists should be thinking about even today. It might just end up being radiology’s best way to demonstrate its value.