Changing the Tone

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From the outset of this year's RSNA conference, it is obvious that the tone of the conversation about the specialty's future has changed significantly. Of the speakers at this morning's well attended opening session, only one -- current RSNA president George Bisset, MD -- was a radiologist. Two were non-radiologist clinicians and one was a patient advocate. Before they had even had the opportunity to give their talks, the selection of these speakers sent a message: radiologists can no longer afford to think of themselves as alone in the reading room.

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Packed house for the opening session of RSNA 2012.

It's early yet, and I still have many miles to tread to and fro across McCormick place as I sit in on educational sessions and meet with vendors, but my experiences thus far confirm that the focus has changed for everyone associated with the field of radiology. Knowing that there is only so much more productivity that can be squeezed from radiologists, vendors have shifted their focus from solutions that improve profitability through increased RVUs to solutions that improve profitability by improving relationships. When patients are happy and engaged in their care, referrers are happy, and when referrers are happy, practices thrive.

Further, interoperability has shifted from a buzzword to an imperative as clinicians look around and realize that their future effectiveness in emerging care delivery models will be dependent on their ability to communicate and cooperate. In the unified image storage repositories that vendors are pushing on us from every angle here in the exhibit hall, we see a preview of what is to come. George Kovacs at McKesson used the words "diagnostic function" to describe the work that radiologists, cardiologists, pathologists and other specialists do -- and just as it's no longer all about radiology from an IT perspective, so it is no longer all about any one specialty from a diagnostic perspective.

What does this tonal shift mean for the profession? I hope it signifies the beginnings of a change that has long been called for by thought leaders in the field -- a change toward more integrated, collaborative, and as a result, more patient centric care. As Dr. Bisset asserted in his opening talk this morning, "One of radiology's greatest challenges is its tendency to invisibility . . . We need to build a formal philosophy of patient-centered care into the practice of radiology."