Right-brain Radiology

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Curtis PickelleYou might recall that a few years ago, in this column, I extolled the virtues of a unique book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future (Riverhead, 2006). It discusses the emergence, in our society, of a new appreciation for a balance between left- and right-brain thinking.

This is especially true within disciplines that have historically emphasized process over content in their daily encounters. “Get it done quickly” quite often replaced “Take your time and think about the implications” in many process-driven enterprises. Pink argues, however, that the latter approach should be valued, renewing the emphasis on aesthetics, depth, and meaning as key drivers in those organizations that emerge as long-term success stories.

Several years and economic crises later, I am more convinced than ever that the survivors in our increasingly complex medical imaging sector—whether hospitals or practices—are those that have emphasized the value of building lasting relationships with their customers (payors, patients, referring physicians, hospital partners, employees, and others) over the immediacy and efficiency of the process.

In some radiology organizations, though, the relationships have been stuck in old-media thinking, with the assumption that as long as the organization operates with maximum efficiency, it is a role model to be emulated. One can see the fruits of such thinking in the decline of hospital–radiology relationships over the past few years—even among those groups that might have been nationally recognized as pillars of good management.

Don’t get me wrong: We need good processes. Today’s workflow systems and productivity analytics have given imaging executives new methods and tools with which to measure their success and to benchmark themselves against national norms. This is a good thing, as long as it does not consume all of the time and energy of the enterprise at the expense of relationship building. A well-designed process can fit nicely within a strategy in which the benefits of intelligence drive the organization toward sustaining and nurturing customer relationships.

A new year is always a good time to reflect, and I submit that there is no better reflection for an imaging enterprise embarking on a fresh decade than how best to build loyalty from its various stakeholders—the kind of loyalty born of a strategy of genuine appreciation for (and recognition of) those who actually sustain the enterprise.

How is it possible to emerge at the top of the heap in a changing and uncertain health-care environment? If you are the health administrator who might be just a little too bureaucratic and dismissive of the unique value of radiologists, look to the benefit of your entrepreneurial service partner to build a true market differentiator: Appreciate the jewel that you have in your organization.

If you are the invisible radiologist, find a way to reconnect with your customers: They need you to be an active participant in the diagnostic and therapeutic process. Get into the game with all that you have.

There is a financial motive for building better relationships, of course, but perhaps even more important is the opportunity to create an environment in which the patient ultimately benefits from a seamless and committed team, combining the best of each health-care element to drive behavior toward the achievement of excellence. Such a strategy can bring out the ideal in all of us, and can get us beyond mere efficiency—toward meaning.

What a great profession it is that even allows for the achievement of such meaning. Don’t waste its potential.

Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle is publisher of ImagingBiz.com and Radiology Business Journal, and is a 30-year veteran of the medical-imaging industry. He welcomes your comments at ckp@imagingbiz.com.