5 Ways to Build a Winning Radiology Practice

Shannon Werb

Today’s radiology leaders face a significant number of challenges, including complex reimbursement policies, evolving technologies, and increasing demands for 24/7 subspecialty care. MEDNAX Radiology Solutions hosted a webinar on Feb. 21, 2018, that focused on these challenges and what leaders can do to ensure their practices thrive in today’s growing, competitive marketplace. 

Shannon Werb, president and chief operating officer of vRad, a MEDNAX company, moderated an engaging panel discussion which included five practice leaders from MEDNAX Radiology Partner Practices throughout the United States about their most successful business and clinical strategies.

The full MEDNAX webinar can be viewed by clicking here

Based on the in-depth conversation between Werb and the practice leaders, these are five tips for building a winning radiology practice:

1. Leverage Technology to Drive Change and Maximize Value

Leaders in today’s radiology marketplace must invest in modern technology if they wish to stay competitive, even if faced with a shrinking budget.   

“All radiology practices, big and small, are forced to do more with less,” Werb said. “Technology promises to enable radiologists to meet this challenge if practices commit the financial and human resources necessary. Successful practices engage the right tech tools in the right applications.”

For example, Werb explained, running suboptimal software might impact the quality of radiology reports, impacting the bottom line from a billing perspective or misreporting important quality measures. An optimized reading environment is also crucial; radiologists need to operate in the best possible surroundings to ensure the best patient outcomes possible. 

Walid Adham, MD, president and CEO of Synergy Radiology Associates (Synergy) in Texas, shared his own experience with battling technology. After growing from providing services to 35 facilities in 2011 to 160 just a few years later, Synergy was operating five different PACS all at once. Adham said the logistics took a huge toll on both management and the team’s IT specialists, and the team realized it was time for a change. MEDNAX Radiology Solutions is helping Synergy implement the vRad platform, a solution that combines their five PACS into a unified worklist while also providing support with workflow management, voice-recognition, natural language processing (NLP) and business intelligence. MEDNAX also helped Synergy with report standardization, an issue that had been a high priority for the team for quite some time. 

“Any radiologist knows that we all have our different approach and our different method by which we analyze a study,” Adham said. “Standardizing reports is difficult because each radiologist approaches each study differently, but this voice-recognition system allows radiologists to use their own individual search patterns and look at studies how they typically look at them. The system is then able to dictate those components … and we now have every Synergy report looking the same, which is huge for our referring physicians.”  

2. Take Advantage of Artificial Intelligence’s (AI’s) Potential to Improve The Quality of Care 

Perhaps the biggest trend in all of radiology is the rapid evolution of AI and machine learning technologies. Though the initial hype around AI involved a lot of concern over radiologists losing their jobs, Werb said the industry seems to have a much more balanced view of how AI will influence radiology going forward. 

By “taking smaller bites of the apple,” Werb added, the focus for AI at MEDNAX Radiology Solutions has become assisting radiologists and clinicians in making more timely, accurate diagnoses. Computers as clinical aids can help increase efficiency and minimize variation with regard to triage and detection of pathologies. They can also accelerate workflow through segmentation, measurement and pre-population of reports homogenized with the radiologists’ diagnoses. 

Ricardo Cury, MD, FSCCT, president and CEO of Radiology Associates of South Florida (RASF), said MEDNAX is able to test and validate algorithms that will help RASF’s clinicians provide the best care possible. 

“Key ingredients to success will be data, clinical expertise, and having the right technology,” Cury said. “In the end, we believe that man plus machine may be better than man alone or machine alone. These tools will make radiologists better.”

3. Use Advanced Analytics to Gain Real-time Insight into Every Facet of Your Practice

Jason Shipman, MD, MS, president of Radiology Alliance in Tennessee, spoke about the importance of leveraging massive datasets. Shipman noted that “For example, radiologists note a lot of incidental findings during their reads, but there needs to be a better system for capturing and quantifying the value they provide in the process.”

“One of the ideas we came up with is capturing incidental lesions in a registry and delivering these patients back to our partners for guaranteed follow-up,” Shipman said. And with assistance from MEDNAX Radiology Solutions, he is now working on making such a registry a reality. This won’t just provide value for the hospital and our patients by ensuring they get the recommended follow-up he added—it also helps keep us as radiologists at the table in conversations about which quality metrics should be tracked. 

Raymond Montecalvo, MD, Senior Medical Director of vRad, added that radiology, more than any other specialty, has an opportunity to lead when it comes to harnessing the power of data analytics. 

“Only radiologists and astute radiology administrators have the data, the imaging-specific expertise and the business acumen to process this information into a form that is indispensable to our referral base and our hospital systems,” Montecalvo said. “It’s a unique opportunity to make ourselves essential, an opportunity we have to take.”

Montecalvo noted that data analytics only gets more complex the larger a system becomes. “You may not think you need it at first—but once you realize you do need it, it could be too late”. 

“As radiology becomes more integrated, as groups start to coalesce, creating regional and national practices,” he said. “And as hospital systems begin to figure out that their success requires highly-engaged and savvy radiology practices invested in the service line. Then the ability to analyze every aspect of this far-flung service and to share it with all the stakeholders becomes absolutely essential. It also become a lot more expensive.”

By working with a partner like MEDNAX, he added, radiologists gain access to data that allows them to take a more active role in service management and provide key information to their hospitals, referring physicians, and patients. 

4. Drive Improvements in Patient Outcomes through Clinical Excellence

One common trait among winning radiology practices is that they all find ways to move patient care “to the next level” while driving improvement in patient outcomes. For these practices, the status quo simply isn’t enough. “Quality is a key part of this conversation,” Werb said. “It’s a huge opportunity for radiology.” 

Werb pointed to reading room environments as a key example of how improved quality can set practices up for success. He called it creating an “in the zone” reading environment. 

“It seems like it should be straightforward, but the challenge is ensuring there is a complete clinical history with each encounter, all prior imaging sets are made available for the radiologists, all prior reports are available, all worksheets are complete, the imaging quality is appropriate and the header of the report is even pre-populated with all the information,” he said. 

By using state-of-the-art technology to improve reading rooms, radiologists can then provide more high-quality care to their patients. And by providing that improved care, practices are able to demonstrate their value through various quality measures, leading to higher reimbursements and significant cost savings. 

5. Collaborate with Other Practice Leaders to Improve The Quality of Care

Werb noted that collaborations are growing across the board in healthcare. vRad, the largest teleradiology provider in the United States, has seen its business change as more partners look for help with final reads and subspecialty reads instead of just requesting preliminary reads. And other radiology practices, and hospitals, are all experiencing the same shift. 

Ethan Foxman, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Jefferson Radiology, shared a story about the importance of technology-based collaborations. Years ago, Jefferson Radiology was providing reads to a small community hospital and trying desperately to get their PACS installed at the site to optimize workflow. The hospital’s CEO just wouldn’t pull the trigger, causing Foxman’s team to switch to a more business-minded approach. 

“We took the conversation in a different direction,” Foxman said. “We told them that letting us take over some of the PACS, voice recognition, image archives—basic functions—would save them a lot of money. We knew that, compared to a relatively small community hospital, a larger organization like Jefferson Radiology could just extend its economies of scale.” 

The community hospital in question, of course, finally saw the light. Foxman says it showed the power of representing a larger organization. Hospitals and even other radiology practices want to collaborate with you because they know you have the resources to get things done. 

“If we had just been a five-person group back then, we might have had the right ideas, but we wouldn’t have had the scope of external resources to deploy our technology,” Foxman said. 

Foxman’s story proves how important it can be for practices to work together. And, Werb concluded, that’s maybe the most important thing radiology practices can do to achieve success in 2018 and beyond: work with others to improve patient care. 

“MEDNAX is bringing together the best practices from throughout the country and putting each one on the same groundbreaking technology platform,” Werb said. “Together, these practices are going to change healthcare forever. It’s an exciting moment in radiology, and we’re happy to be playing such a key role.” 

About MEDNAX Radiology Solutions

MEDNAX Radiology Solutions represents the nation’s largest Radiology Practice, offering on-the-ground and in-the-cloud radiology solutions to our more than 2,100 partner facilities nationwide. These partner facilities trust us to read more than 11M studies annually through our more than 750 fellowship trained Radiologists. 

Combining on-the-ground and in-the-cloud radiology excellence with a world-class technology platform, we are uniquely positioned to deliver:

An Integrated Network of Subspecialty Expertise —Supported by our fully subspecialized clinical team, we provide on-demand access to fellowship trained radiologists, extending our partners’ scope of service while reducing turnaround times.

Unparalleled Technology —Fueled by our proprietary technology platform and analytics engine, we maximize efficiency and drive clinical quality through innovative artificial intelligence, analytics and intelligent dictation.

Unified Ground and Cloud Operations —Through our proprietary workflow technology, 24/7 U.S.-based operations center, and shared platform with the largest national teleradiology practice, we intelligently route the right study to the right radiologist at the right time.

MEDNAX Radiology Partner Practices and Webinar Panelists

  • Walid Adham, MD, President & CEO, Synergy Radiology Associates, Houston, TX
  • Ricardo Cury, MD, FSCCT, President & CEO, Radiology Associates of South Florida, Miami, FL
  • Ethan Foxman, MD, PhD, President & CEO, Jefferson Radiology, Enfield, CT
  • Raymond Montecalvo, MD, Sr. Medical Director, vRad, Minneapolis, MN
  • Jason Shipman, MD, MS, President, Radiology Alliance, Nashville, TN
  • Shannon Werb, President & COO, vRad, Minneapolis, MN