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Crystal Ball Shows Hard Work, Communication

January 6, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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2011 is still fresh and new enough for predictions. Here’s one man’s opinion about five ways that radiology will change over the next few years. That man is Jonathan W. Berlin, MD, clinical associate professor of radiology at University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. His thoughts come via Rachel Fields of Becker’s Hospital Review:

  1. Radiologists will work harder. “The work of a radiologist has turned toward more complex procedures, and interpretations need to be more immediate than they did in the past,” Dr. Berlin says. Increased caseloads and decreased reimbursements may reduce compensation.
  2. Radiologists (and other physicians) will have to cut costs. “If you look at the short term,” Dr. Berlin says, “radiologic practices might be able to defer radiology hires or purchases of new equipment. The equipment they buy may not be the most expensive model, or it may be leased instead of bought.” Technology may help with cost cutting.
  3. Pressure to reduce negative exams will increase. “The majority of [doctors] do make an effort to order medically necessary tests,” Dr. Berlin says. “Of course, there are some well-documented exceptions to this, such as self-referral in some cases.” Defining “medically necessary” can be more complex than policy makers or Medicare administrators might think. To address the problem, Dr. Berlin says …
  4. Communication with ordering providers will increase. Dr. Berlin says protocols for image ordering must be standardized. “We really shouldn’t have instances where 90 percent of the radiologic exams a particular physician orders for a specific indication are negative,” he says, “and then in a neighboring practice, there’s another physician ordering radiologic exams on a similar patient population for the exact clinical indication, and only 3 percent of those radiologic exams are negative.”
  5. People will become more cognizant of radiation dosages. Technological advances are reducing the amount of radiation delivered per CT scan. “Radiologists can also play an important role in making sure that exams are done appropriately,” Dr. Berlin says. “For example, by ensuring that the correct protocol is used for the correct patient, the need to repeat technically inadequate exams can be minimized and radiation dose can be decreased.”

So, overall, he sees challenges and changes. In other words, business as usual.

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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