High healthcare costs: How radiologists can avoid public backlash

One of the country's major news outlets reminds us that healthcare consumers still have the capacity to get riled up about the cost of healthcare--and the amount of money the people who provide that care get paid.

A recent article in the New York Times examined the case of an Arkansas history professor who went through an outpatient procedure at the Arkansas Skin Cancer Center in Little Rock that ended up costing more than $25,000. Throughout the course of the article, the writer explained that many specialists were "becoming particularly adept at the business of medicine by becoming more entrepreneurial, protecting their turf through aggressive lobbying by their medical societies, and most of all, increasing revenues by offering new procedures--or doing more of lucrative ones."

As we know, medical imaging and radiology gets its share of abuse when it come to articles like this. Last spring, the Times published an article detailing the extraordinarily high costs of colonoscopies--and other procedures like MRI exams--in the U.S., particularly in comparison to the rest of the world.

We also know that despite the fact that radiology compensation levels have flattened over the last several years, radiology remains one of the mostly highly-compensated medical specialties. According to the latest American Medical Group Association compensation and financial survey, diagnostic radiologists--interventional and non-interventional--rank fourth and fifth among 30 different medical specialties when it comes to compensation levels.

As long as healthcare costs remain a major public policy issue, we will continue to see articles like the two from the Times mentioned above. So what can medical imaging professional do to avoid any potential blowback from this kind of publicity?

First of all, radiologists should be doing what they can to reduce costs, whether it involves focusing on imaging appropriateness or playing a role in helping hospitals provide better patient care and improved safety at lower costs.

They should also be doing more to increase the public's awareness of the profession so that patients have a better understanding of what radiologists do and the critical role they play in their care. This could involve anything from taking steps to facilitate patient interaction to publicizing the profession through the avenues like social media.

The more radiologists are able to get those messages across--that they play a critical role in diagnosing and treating disease and also are doing their part of keep healthcare costs down--the better able they'll be to deflect any criticism coming their way. - Mike (@FierceHealthIT)