RBMA Summit 2014: Building relationships-the changing focus of radiology

Among the many different sessions presented at the Radiology Business Management Association Summit that was held last week in Charlotte, NC, an underlying theme was very apparent. The importance of building relationships was stressed time and again. From forging and maintaining relationships with fellow radiologists and radiology practices, to building relationships with hospitals, it was clear that productivity alone will not demonstrate value in the new healthcare environment. The way radiologists interact and relate to others is crucial when it comes to building a trusting, solid foundation for their practices.

In a session entitled “Role Reversal—Seeking Common Ground with Strategies for Healthy Relationships Between Hospitals and Radiology Practices,” presenters David Myrice and Greg Thompson engaged the attendees in an interactive activity that had them assuming the roles of the hospital administrator and the radiology practice administrator during negotiation. Each had compelling arguments driven by his own particular needs or challenges, but when brought together, participants had to find common ground that would enable them both to succeed and in some scenarios, just enable them to survive.

“We’re definitely starting to see a theme,” Myrice said. “It’s all about relationships. We need to differentiate our relationships, gauge them, and when we sign a contract with a hospital we are formalizing our relationship. But it should be about collaboration. Radiology practices should have a good understanding of their hospitals’ market shares, as well as current issues they may be facing before beginning to negotiate a contract.”

In another session entitled “Radiology Group Traditional, Non-Traditional and Emerging Integration and Collaboration Initiatives,” Doug Smith, senior executive vice president at Integrated Medical Partners began by reemphasizing the importance of relationships—in this case, the relationships between radiology practices. In a healthcare environment besieged by consolidation, the panel of radiologists discussed a new model of integration—whereby collaborating with each other maintains their successful independence.

“Integration is happening quickly, and we need to understand our role in it,” Smith said.

Smith went on to review the current landscape in radiology, where differentiation and innovation have driven increased competiveness among radiology practices.

“Radiology groups used to be very collegial—until ten years ago,” Smith observed. “Now it’s become very competitive. How do we collaborate in a competitive environment?”

The panel of radiologists participating in the discussion support a new form of joint venture arrangement in which radiology groups partner with one another to share resources while maintaining autonomy from an operational perspective. “If our customers are integrating and collaborating, how can we not?” one panel member said. “In this JV model, practices benefit from one another for one another—but can remain independent.”