3 ways to demonstrate the true value provided by radiologists

Radiologists provide significant value. According to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, however, the specialty is still judged by “checkbox metrics” that do not illustrate its true value. 

Measuring value in healthcare is difficult, primarily because current payment programs are based on specific clinical processes. It's even more challenging in radiology because it ca be hard to connect a radiologist's efforts to a patient outcome. So, what can be done to improve the daily discussion that revolves around value? 

1. Change process measures:

One example of changing a process measures would be taking a closer look at turnaround times (TATs). In many cases, TATs refer to the length of time it takes for a radiologist to sign a final report. However, the authors explained, TATs should be redefined as the time from when a patient is scheduled for imaging to when the final report is available for the ordering physician to review. 

“This shift allows radiologists to take responsibility for the entire imaging chain, given the demands for smooth, end-to-end workflow without regard for the traditional silos of ‘hospitals’ versus ‘doctors’ versus ‘schedulers’ and other professionals involved in the imaging chain," wrote lead author Rajan T. Gupta, MD, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues.

2. Empower radiologists:

Health systems should empower their radiologists to work with ordering clinicians to determine which imaging tests are necessary. This helps radiologists concentrate on “high-yield” exams, which may lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses and positive patient outcomes. 

3. Engage patients:

Radiologists can increase their own value with patients by directly communicating imaging results and educating patients on the value of their imaging exams. Engagement with patients increases the value of their radiologists’ involvement in their overall care and can decrease the overutilization of “low-yield” imaging exams.

“A recipe for failure is for radiologists to consider themselves faceless, rendering simply a ‘laboratory value’ or a test result,” Gupta and colleagues wrote. “All radiologists are in this together, and the only way we can change the system is to become part of the solution. This means creating novel metrics to assess and show our value, to all stakeholders, including insurers, hospitals, and our patients. Collectively, we can achieve this reality for our local health systems and for the specialty as a whole.”