Better IT needed for radiology's big changes ahead

Healthcare IT takes center stage at the Radiological Society of North America’s 98th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting this year, with two plenary sessions devoted to meaningful use and health IT.

[See also: RSNA puts the spotlight on oncology]

The sessions are slated back to back on Monday, Nov. 26 in the Arie Crown Theater – Lakeside at McCormick Place. Keith J. Dreyer, DO, and Paul J. Chang, MD, will deliver Eugene P. Pendergrass New Horizons Lectures. Dreyer’s is titled The Future of Imaging Informatics—Meaningful Use and Beyond, Chang’s Meaningful IT Innovation to Support the Radiology Value Proposition.

Healthcare IT News spoke with Chang about his lecture and his vision for the future of radiology. He talked about why radiology will have to re-engineer itself in order to be relevant in a fast-changing healthcare realm.

[See also: RSNA demo offers first-hand look at image sharing ]

Q. What do you hope to convey to your colleagues with this lecture?

A. The take-home message is primarily that medicine as a whole – and radiology in particular – is going trough significant change. Certain models that we have taken for granted are drastically changing. Fee-for-service, for example, is probably a model that is going to way newer delivery models, such as accountable care organizations. There are significantly increased pressures – challenges as well as opportunities – for radiology.

We’re kind of stuck between the demand for added value and added efficiency, but also there is a risk of peripheralization and commoditization. It used to be that radiology aligned itself quite effectively from a financial perspective with the hospital because the better we did, the better the hospital did. In a fee-for-service model where you get paid for doing more, radiology did quite well. Now the question is how are we going to demonstrate our value when the rules have changed? How do we re-engineer ourselves to be contributory, and to be relevant and to add value – differentiable value – in a capitated environment? We’re going to have to re-engineer ourselves and understand that the rules have changed.

Q. How do you go about re-engineering radiology?

A. I know of no other way of doing this but leveraging informatics and IT. To me the value proposition in imaging is a function of quality, efficiency and safety, and we have to do all three simultaneously. The only way we can do that is leveraging IT, and this is the second take-home message. We unfortunately have become complacent with respect to IT in imaging. We think that PACS is a solved problem. I would maintain that it’s the immaturity of our IT products, our informatics solutions radiology that actually have contributed to the commoditization of radiology. The immaturity of these IT products actually only allows me to show commodity level performance. We need to expect more from IT. We have to leverage IT and expect more.