According to research published this month in the American Journal of Roentgenology, the vast majority of patient education articles that make their way onto RadiologyInfo.org--a jointly sponsored website of the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America--are written at a 10th grade level. That may not seem like too much of an intellectual burden to overcome for radiologists who are, by definition, highly educated. But, when one looks at the American population as a whole, it's a problem.
This past week, two Canadian medical associations--the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) and the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR)--issued a joint policy statement in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada opposing the nonmedical use of fetal ultrasound. These associations are particularly concerned about the rise of nonmedical ultrasound centers that provide "entertainment scans," or keepsake images that are provided to expectant parents.
Earlier this year, a European Society of Cardiology position paper--published in the European Heart Journal--urged cardiologists to be more proactive in reducing inappropriate radiation exposure to their patients during cardiology procedures. Now, an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology recommends measures physicians can take to enhance the safety and effectiveness of such procedures.
Last week, federal lawmakers finally reached a deal to permanently repeal the perennially unpopular sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The central provision of bipartisan legislation avoids a 23.7 percent reimbursement cut scheduled for April 1 of this year, and instead increases physician reimbursement rates for 0.5 percent annually for five years.
This, of course, is welcome news. As the American College of Radiology has pointed out, repeated cuts in all probability had a negative impact on medical imaging facilities being able to keep their doors open, never mind continuing to offer a full range of services.
More needs to be done to curb overimaging, particularly in emergency rooms, and radiologists need to take the lead on such efforts.
Reimbursements are down, compensation levels have been fairly flat, and aspiring radiologists are worried they're not going to be able to find the perfect job when they're ready to begin their careers. The news hasn't been great for the radiology industry. But, a recent report suggests that radiology as a specialty isn't all bad.
As long as healthcare costs remain a major public policy issue, news articles about procedure prices and provider compensation are sure to rile the masses. So what can medical imaging professional do to avoid any potential blowback?
Another big issue facing radiology as we head into 2014 is one seemingly left over from 2013: imaging appropriateness, ie, ensuring that every patient who needs imaging gets the right exam at the right time for the right indication, while avoiding care that they don't need.
As we enter the new year, the radiology industry can expect to face its fair share of challenges. Four, in particular, come to mind right away.
While the medical imaging industry certainly had its share of stories in 2013 that were intriguing--such as February's news that radiologists struggled to identify an image of a gorilla purposely dropped into a CT lung scan--four trends stood out as being vital to imaging professionals, as a whole, throughout the course of the year: imaging appropriateness and the use of clinical decision support; reimbursement; CT and its role in lung cancer screening; and the continuing clinical benefits of breast tomosynthesis. As the end of 2013 fast approaches, I'd like to take a moment to review each of those four trends in some detail.