Survey explores the top 3 quality metrics on radiology practices’ radars, and how they’re used

Turnaround time is radiology practices’ most commonly used quality metric, according to a preliminary survey of nearly 200 providers, shared on Thursday.

Peer review and critical results reporting round out the top three, the Radiology Business Management Association reported this week. Other popular metrics included call reports, appropriate use of advanced imaging, outreach and accessibility, callback rate and “recommendation for further imaging.”

“What is most important from this survey is that this is the first step that the RBMA Data Committee has made in establishing quality measure benchmarks,” Executive Director Robert Still said Thursday. “Our goal is to follow this initial survey with additional, more-focused surveys that will establish these important operating measures.”

Of the 199 survey respondents, nearly half (94) came from mid-sized practices with between 16-50 full-time employees. Fifty-four respondents work for practices with 15 employees or less. And the other 41 hailed from practices with 51 employees or more. The vast majority (80%) work in a hospital-based practice, with most of the remaining balance situated in standalone imaging centers.

Roughly 67% of respondents said they use turnaround time as a quality metric—defined loosely as the span from when an imaging exam is ordered to when the radiologist completes their report. “Internal use” was the top reason for tracking turnaround (49.7%), followed by imaging professional services agreements (40.6%), and payer contracts (9.7%).

Peer review, meanwhile, was the second most popular metric at 42%, with similar reasons for use when compared to turnaround. Of those who offered more detailed responses, practice leaders were evenly split between using the American College of Radiology’s RadPeer (52%) and their own internal system (39%). And providers deployed peer review in varying ways, with one respondent indicating that they require rads to complete 60 peer reviews per quarter.

Nearly 40 survey respondents said they use peer review to improve the practice in categories such as staff performance, education, compliance or “general improvement.”

Meanwhile, 19% said they use “critical results reporting”—defined in varying ways among practices—as a quality metric, and the vast majority (87%) indicated that it was for professional services agreements. The other 13% said they are using critical results for payer contracts.

One surprising finding, Still noted, was that smaller practices with 15 employees or less were just as likely to deploy quality metrics as their larger counterparts with a greater depth of resources. He emphasized that this is just the first in a series of surveys to better understand how top practices are tracking quality and using it to improve care.

“As we conduct further surveys it will be interesting to see how radiology practices use this quality measures data,” he told Radiology Business.

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