Radiology’s Greatest Opportunity—and Biggest Challenge
Bill_PickartMultiple factors have coalesced recently to create the ideal environment for improved radiology group–hospital alignment, including regulatory upheavals, economic pressure, and changes in reimbursement. The alignment pressures have resulted in much discussion concerning group consolidation. Frequently, this consolidation takes one of three forms: merger, merger with conditions, and outright acquisition. A fourth option is possible, though, and it will enable practices to maintain the autonomy and independence that they value, while allowing them to take advantage of the economies of scale necessary for survival in today’s market: networked collaboration. In a networked-collaboration model, regional groups of practices form loose affiliations with one another that allow them to continue to function as independent practice/business entities, while pooling their resources and sharing subspecialty expertise. These radiology-group networks can leverage their size in payor, vendor, and hospital negotiations, and the can work together to serve hospitals and health systems (instead of competing for their business). If this model sounds too good to be true, it is because forming collaborative networks of practices represents much more than an unprecedented cooperation between former competitors in a given region or market. It hinges on—and necessitates—a cultural change unlike any that radiology has had to consider in the past, and this change will have to happen swiftly for groups to seize the opportunity at hand. In the roundtable discussion that follows, we look at the characteristics of successful, aligned relationships. I believe that the most successful alignments will be built on the model of regional radiology-group collaboration. Markets vary, and every radiology practice and hospital system is different, but the common language we all speak is that of data. Sophisticated data aggregation and analytics are the keys to successful alignment with valued partners, and they both make radical culture change possible and enforce it. Leveraged strategically, the application of analytics makes collaboration possible where it once seemed impossible, allowing radiology to surmount its biggest challenges and seize its greatest opportunity. Bill Pickart is CEO of Integrated Medical Partners; Click here to read the roundtable discussion