Radisphere National Radiology Group Launches
To further its aim of extending subspecialty radiology services to community hospitals, Franklin & Seidelmann Subspecialty Radiology, Beachwood, Ohio, recently announced the creation of a new company called Radisphere National Radiology Group. True to its name, the group will have a national scope, with the ability to provide radiology services to community hospitals from coast to coast. “We’ve always struggled with the term teleradiology,” Scott Seidelmann, president and CEO of Franklin & Seidelmann, explains. “Teleradiology is really a medium—a use of technology to migrate information and results from point A to point B. We are a radiology group: We obtain hospital contracts, and we employ radiologists. We just happen to use technology quite a bit to do what we do better.” Community Needs Radisphere’s aim is to provide a higher level of service to community hospitals, which have traditionally faced obstacles when it comes to hiring and retaining radiology staff. “How fast are you getting results, and how accurate are you?” Seidelmann asks. “Those are the issues hospitals care about; the current model is struggling due to limited availability of subspecialists and reduced reimbursements. That not only adds costs for hospitals to attract staff and equip them, but also dilutes the ability to deliver high-quality radiology.” Clay Larsen, senior vice president of client and network development of Franklin & Seidelmann, explains that Radisphere represents an expansion of the company’s current business model, with new dimensions added to bolster the ability to deliver customized services to community hospitals. “We do an analysis of the hospital’s needs, looking at the volume of its imaging studies by modality and time of day,” he says. “We have clinical leaders to talk to the referring physicians to understand their needs and a transition staff of radiologists to help with the conversion.” Other support-staff members include technologists, who will look at the acquisition protocols that a client is using to ensure that its staff is using best practices and maintaining the consistency of studies; nonphysician service staff, who will perform the integration for DICOM, PACS, and HL7 to ensure uninterrupted workflow; and credentialing, recruiting, and licensing resources. “We want to make every imaging study the best it can possibly be,” Larsen says. “All of our nonradiologist staff members are there to deliver these service levels and better turnaround times for the higher-quality readings that come from our radiologists.” Services offered by Radisphere include the ability to consult with radiologists reading remotely via video, critical-findings notifications, and a robust quality-assurance process. “We’re tying our contracts to our results,” Seidelmann says. “Pay for performance is what hospitals are buying. They want high-quality, fast results, and in order for us to deliver that, there’s a significant technology and workflow barrier. You have to take advantage of the remote network.” An Eye on Quality To address those barriers, Radisphere leverages the network of subspecialty radiologists established by Franklin & Seidelmann, as well as the company’s in-house workflow distribution solution (called radii™). “We’ve spent 10 years building the capability to do this,” Seidelmann says. The most critical component of the new company’s service offering will be subspecialization, Larsen explains; while large radiology groups in metropolitan areas provide some level of subspecialty services, small community hospitals don’t have the volumes to support a diversified radiology staff. “It’s always going to be easier to recruit radiologists to live in certain parts of the country than to live in others,” Larsen notes. “We don’t want to rely exclusively on expensive-to-recruit local radiologists living near the hospital when we can offer a network of highly regarded radiologists, through our network, who will be of higher quality and be much more productive reading remotely.” Seidelmann says, “Our clients are hospitals with medical-staff members who don’t feel they’re getting consistent and reliable turnaround times. They don’t feel they’re getting access to expertise. We’re advocating that the best delivery of radiology services is about the proper balance between generalized and specialized care.” The Radisphere approach offers hospitals an on-site radiologist for general interpretations and interventional procedures; subspecialty readings are performed remotely. “Today, the ratio of generalized to specialized is upside down for most community hospitals,” he says. “It’s 80% general and 20% specialized, when it should be the other way around.” Larsen adds that the limiting factor for quality in radiology is generally not the technology available from the modalities; instead, it’s the radiologist who reads the studies. “We’re going to be able to improve the delivery of radiology from the quality/services side of the spectrum, not from the modality technology,” he says. Because Radisphere assumes full responsibility for both infrastructure and the downstream steps that are critical to timely delivery of accurate results, client hospitals can save on expenditures like management software for critical test results. “We’ve developed a radiologist-centric view of how to deliver critical findings,” Seidelmann says. “If radiologists find a critical value, they identify how critical it is, they decide whether to call the physician or request that a member of our team make the call, and a nonradiologist oversees all of this, making sure nothing is closed until it’s verified that the referring physician has been reached.” Evolution, Not Revolution Seidelmann characterizes Radisphere as a natural evolution of the founding concepts behind Franklin & Seidelmann. “Our vision was very much to deliver the highest-quality radiology services to the places that need them most,” he says. “As we got into this, it became clear that the biggest need is in community hospitals, which are being underserved for a variety of reasons. It was time to go after delivering these services to them.” He notes that overcoming the technical and logistical challenges posed by such an undertaking is difficult, but not impossible; technology is key to managing the burden. “In order to offer these services across 10 specialties and 100 facilities, you need a sophisticated professional support team and the capacity plans to ensure you can meet those service requirements,” he says. “It takes an enormous amount of infrastructure and a huge, highly specialized network of radiologists to be able to deliver these services anywhere.” Larsen adds, “What’s most important about our model is that we’re able to go ahead and create solutions where more than 50% of studies are read remotely. That’s the key distinction. The more studies you have read off-site, the more specialists who are reading those studies, and that increases the quality of your readings. It’s a combination of higher quality and lower costs.” Cat Vasko is editor of ImagingBiz.com and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.