Considering that medical imaging accounts for 7.5 percent of healthcare spending in the U.S. (more than $175 billion annually), the physicians and facilities that supply these services should help lead the way in the reform of healthcare delivery, according to Michael Franklin, CEO of Atlantic General Hospital/Health System in Berlin, Md. In an article published this month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, Franklin says that radiologists "will be a central focus in the crusade for patient-centered, efficient, and transportable patient care."
Franklin first points out imaging's central role in daily hospital operations, saying that radiologists are leaders in integrating information systems (such as PACs, radiology information systems and decision support) into all elements of clinical operations within hospitals.
Best practice initiatives, he says, will drive hospitals toward increasing use of clinical support systems, and medical imaging and radiology will play a central role in creating this integrated and patient-centric system within hospitals. The integration of CAD and standardized reporting in mammography (BI-RADS) is "an excellent demonstration of the type of impact the industry is seeking," Franklin writes.
Radiologists also have relationships with hospitals that "create unique operational integration," which, for example, increases a shared responsibility for liability associated with medical imaging studies. This heightens the need for hospital leaders and radiologists to develop means of elevating best-practice standards within each institution," Franklin writes. "This relationship also makes clear the need for hospitals, radiologists, and IT developers to create systems that enable the gathering of clear, reliable clinical data for the evaluation and improvement of patient care in our communities."
Last October, JACR published a special issue on health reform and radiology that echoed Franklin's thought's about the central role radiology will play in reform efforts. According to James Rawson, M.D., Chair of the Medical College of Georgia Department of Radiology at Georgia Health Sciences University and co-editor of the special issue, a decade of increasing use of sophisticated, expensive imaging studies had placed radiology in the middle of healthcare reform, and consequently given radiologists the opportunity to take a leadership role in reducing costs, optimizing utilization and improving patient care.