Radiology’s Window of Opportunity

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 - Curtis Kaufman-Pickelle
Curtis Kaufman-Pickelle

Radiology’s current environment has often been described as a perfect storm—but Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle, publisher of ImagingBiz and president/CEO of the Kauffman Group, sees it differently. “Some of the current market conditions are negative and some are positive, but combined, they create a significant opportunity,” he says. “The convergence of factors like constraints on revenue, difficulties with reimbursement and all of the new uncertainties created by the ACA has created a window in which practices have the chance to create a new vision for the radiology field that embraces innovation.”

Kauffman-Pickelle explains that hospital and health system administrators are facing similar challenges, and are actively seeking partners who can help allay their concerns about meeting the triple aim: improving quality, lowering costs and increasing access. “Hospital executives today are looking for new kinds of alliance models, and they are reaching out to the physician communities they work with to identify which groups are going to be able to generate new sources of revenue,” he says. “Radiology can and should be in the room while those discussions are taking place.”

Investment in IT Infrastructure

What makes radiology, of all the specialties, best positioned to contribute to this conversation? Kauffman-Pickelle points out that the field has much deeper roots in investing in IT infrastructure than some of its peers—and in the new, data-driven era of health care, properly leveraging that infrastructure could make all the difference.

“I’m currently spending a lot of time in the board room of a fairly substantially sized hospital, and what I am seeing is a real push toward understanding how to use analytics and informatics to give insight to c-suite executives,” he says. “It will enable them to fulfill their mission in a much more effective and significant way. They’re really looking at their EHRs, at interoperability, at aggregating and using big data.”

Because radiology as a field has always been more reliant on computing power than the majority of its peers, most practices already have some, if not all, of the technology necessary to gather the data hospitals are looking for. “All of the robust technologies that radiology has invested in really give the specialty a leg up over other practices,” Kauffman-Pickelle says. “When hospitals are looking at the range of options to partner with, radiology is positioned to really help them through what is going to be the next wave of demand for information.”

Groups should consider how they can leverage their informatics capabilities to support the hospital’s overarching goal of improving and documenting the quality of its care. “A lot of it is going to come down to utilization,” Kauffman-Pickelle predicts. “Sophisticated computer modeling will be used in a predictive capacity when it comes to population health matters. If radiology can add a broad spectrum of analytics in terms of practice patterns, appropriateness and decision support, it will really differentiate itself from other physician specialties who haven’t spent as much time thinking about these things.”

Seizing the Moment

Kauffman-Pickelle cautions, however, that this window of opportunity won’t last forever, and that groups who fail to seize the moment may find themselves irreversibly commoditized.

“The biggest obstacle radiology practices face is attitude,” he says. “They really need to understand how hospital executives think—the vocabulary they use and the business mindset they have. Groups can’t be provincial in their attitudes.”

Too often, he says, groups can get mired in focusing on their own concerns for themselves, when they have the opportunity to improve their standing by focusing on the concerns of their partners. “Radiology groups can have an introspective view of their practices, concentrating primarily on protecting lifestyle choices for their partners,” Kauffman-Pickelle points out. “Because hospital executives are looking to develop win-win scenarios, groups have to set aside that self-focus and think about how they can benefit their hospitals instead of themselves. Going into it with that mindset creates trust.”

With that being said, he adds that radiology groups’ history of entrepreneurship is exactly what makes them perfect partners for hospitals in the current environment—as long as that entrepreneurial focus can be shifted to include the goals of partners.

“Hospital executives are desperate for entrepreneurial solutions, and radiology by its nature has always been entrepreneurial,” Kauffman-Pickelle concludes. “If the specialty can develop a mindset toward partnering with its customers, this could be its heyday. It’s time for groups to invest resources into creating a strategy that embraces this opportunity before it’s gone.”

Cat Vasko is a contributing writer for Medical Imaging Review