Radiology's Next Move

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Imagine the situation facing radiology practices and their changing market relationships as multiple, concurrent chess matches. In order to reach a respectable outcome without getting swept away by the convergence of moves coming in rapid succession from prepared opponents, radiologists need to understand that this particular game is strategic, not tactical.

To succeed in a newly complex health-care environment, practitioners will need to understand that a good strategy is not simply a collection of tactics—an exhaustive list of projects and things to do—that provides a semblance of momentum. Although it’s comforting to work through a nice roster of tasks and to-do lists, it is no substitute for managing assets in a way that moves your organization toward realizing a strategic vision of its future. Marshalling resources and deploying them through effective leadership transcend the rather ordinary process of working through a series of projects.

To win in today’s complex health-care environment, radiology practices will need to understand, from a strategic point of view, what is happening inside the minds of regulators, legislators, payors, competitors, customers, vendors, employees, and staff. They’ll need to understand the general economy, along with many other factors that have not historically affected the management of a radiology practice as strongly as they do today—at least, not all at once. In the past, practices played chess with one opponent at a time; now, these matches are all happening simultaneously.

Today’s reality is that each of these chess games has everything to do with successfully running a modern practice, and the strategic view encompasses the nuances of each match. In order to play with confidence, today’s radiology executives and physician partners need to be much more aware, educated, and prepared to deal with the business side of the enterprise in new ways.

A case in point is the development of a strategic plan. Some practices are adept at this process, but many still struggle with finding the right formula and structure, and with allowing for innovation within an orderly and consistent structure. In business, the only constant is change; in an environment that is constantly changing, organizations need to find a rhythm that includes anticipating change, embracing it, harnessing it, and exploiting it to their advantage.

In the current environment, hospitals are flexing their imaging muscle in ways that are quite startling to many radiology partners. This is a change, and it’s a change that might be with us for the long term. It will be critically important for practices that intend to thrive in this new era to work such changes to the mutual advantage of both the hospital and themselves.

If you intend to be among the radiology practices setting the pace for the future, become an agent for change within your organization, and lead it through this process. Think strategically, educate yourself about the tenets of leadership and current business wisdom, develop a process of ongoing strategic planning, and inspire your organization by being able to move from chess board to chess board, keeping several matches progressing to your advantage simultaneously.

Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle is publisher of ImagingBiz.com and the Radiology Business Journal, and is a 30-year veteran of the medical imaging industry. He facilitates strategic planning retreats for radiology groups.