Collaboration Series Part II: Improvement in Quality

By Keith Chew, MHA, CMPE, Managing Director of Strategic Positioning and Consulting Services

In last month’s installment of the Collaboration Series, we discussed the evolving, varied business models of radiology group collaborations, partnerships, affiliations and acquisitions. This month, we will be focusing on using the collaborative model to improve the quality of care radiology groups provide.

In the pursuit of cost-effective, high-quality services, the healthcare industry today is experiencing tremendous change. Consolidation, in particular, has been particularly brisk in recent months, as firms look to build scale, cut costs, expand service lines and gain market share.

So it’s easy to see why hospital leaders now are paying particularly close attention to radiology. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), “the annual spending on diagnostic imaging in the United States is $100 billion, making imaging the second-largest and the fastest-growing item for healthcare payors.” The medical organization estimates that $30 billion of this total outlay is spent unnecessarily, due to the inappropriate utilization of imaging or duplication of studies.

With so much opportunity for increased efficiency in radiology departments, what can radiologists do to ensure they remain a valuable partner to hospitals, payers and patients? They can come together. Radiology group collaboration is a proven strategy for improving quality, lowering costs and increasing efficiency. Here are three reasons why:

Subspecialty Access

Access to the appropriate subspecialists is a key component of improving quality within radiology practices. It is critical to have access to the most qualified specialist with the greatest knowledge and experience in the specific area of diagnostic imaging being utilized. This will decrease the likelihood of additional diagnostics being ordered, which can put strain on a facility’s time and resources.

Subspecialty access can also help to reduce clinical errors in radiology readings. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), the average error rate of radiologists is nearly 30 percent, with 70 percent of the errors due to an unperceived, or “missed,” abnormality in the reading. If radiology groups form a collaborative and become interconnected remotely with subspecialists throughout their community, state or even region, they immediately become empowered to work toward meeting the goals of the Image Wisely campaign of supplying the right diagnostic test to the right patient at the right time. This can be brought about through better clinical decisions that will ultimately improve the quality of care and patient safety.

Workflow Technology

By combining resources, collaborative radiology groups can utilize key imaging workflow technologies that address operational inefficiencies, limited capacities and workflow integration. This technology can provide radiologists comprehensive, detailed patient clinical history to use when interpreting studies. The more specific the clinical information at hand, the more actionable that diagnostic interpretation can be. This provides added value for the referring provider to develop an effective treatment plan for the patient.

At IRP, we make available to our Regional Radiology Group Networks (RRGNs) a customized imaging workflow management software that features a unified work list, enhanced voice recognition capabilities, advanced performance reporting, automated peer review and critical results notification. All of these elements are specifically designed to enable greater operational and clinical efficiency in an era of value-based care. Practices can optimize their performance and better position themselves for success in the market by pooling resources and investing in sophisticated technology solutions.

Cutting Costs

Radiology groups that collaborate with other like-minded practices reap the reward of cost-savings in a variety of areas. One example includes medical malpractice insurance; groups involved in IRP’s collaborative model can save an average of 15 to 20 percent on their annual malpractice insurance costs initially. That savings can also increase as analytics are applied to the risk management functions of the practice or network. By focusing on cutting unnecessary costs, radiology groups can target their resources on quality improvement initiatives.

As the industry continues to move toward a value-based care model, radiology practices and imaging centers will increasingly need to demonstrate and deliver their value proposition. Advanced data and analytics capabilities will play a key role in proving a practice’s value.

Stay tuned for the final installment of the Collaboration Series, when we will discuss the different ways data analytics and quality metrics can be built into collaborative practice models in order to demonstrate, prove and even improve their value proposition.