The topic of leadership in imaging has been heavy on the community’s mind of late. New programs, like the ACR’s Radiology Leadership Institute, are springing up with the goal of incorporating business education into radiologists’ busy schedules, and there have been passionate calls in the academic press for medical schools to incorporate health policy into their curricula for radiologists in training.
With these changes in mind, I was very interested to see what past presidents of the RBMA had to say about the future of leadership in imaging. In a session on Tuesday, May 21, seven of the professional association’s most recent presidents (Michael A. Bohl, RT, MHA, FRBMA; John Cergnul, JD, CPA; Claudia Dwyer; Patrick Epting, FRBMA; Patricia Kroken, FACMPE, CRA, FRBMA; Cindy Pittmon, RCC, CHMBE; and Bo Trotter, FRBMA) convened to address questions about the future of their roles as non-radiologist leaders.
The consensus was that the importance of non-physician leaders is only going to grow. “To me, when I look at the challenges in the practice I’m in, the role I am trying to fulfill is bringing information to the physicians that they need to know and being their coach,” said Bohl. He added that hospital relationships are growing in importance: “Providing information back to the hospital has becoming increasingly important. We need to hone those skills.”
Dwyer concurred. “Radiologists have underestimated how important hospitals are, and we have to reach across that void to help them realize the importance of those relationships.” For instance, Pittmon said, practice leaders should encourage their radiologists to “get involved with hospital boards, be medical directors, be on medical committees. They should be answering questions and really participating with the hospital on whatever they can do.”
Cergnul added that practice managers need to give radiologists the time and leeway they need for these activities. “Do make allowances for those who want to get involved at the hospital level and forge personal relationships with the hospital administrators,” he noted. “It’s a lot easier to trust someone in a difficult situation when you have a personal relationship.”
Trotter specified that cultivating hospital relationships should not only be something practice leaders encourage of their radiologists, but something they themselves devote time to as well. “We have to remember that what we think is important is not necessarily as important to hospital administration,” he noted. “We have to make sure we’re including them. We internalize our quality measures too much, instead of bringing the overall body together to make sure we understand their perception of quality.”
Epting noted that more education in business for radiologists can only have a positive impact on practice leaders’ work. “I think it’s going to be very useful for us to have some radiologists who have financial background,” he said. “We as leaders and managers always need to be mindful that what the radiologists perceive as real is going to be real until we can use data to help them understand.”
Finally, Kroken observed that practice managers should stay agile as health care continues to undergo tectonic changes. “We have to understand that the job of the practice manager will still exist, but it won’t look like it does now,” she said. “We have to be constant lifelong learners, know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and adapt to the massive regulations coming out. This is always going to be a challenging field, and it always has been. Keep learning and stay flexible.”