Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

How Radiologists Can Improve Communication with Referrers

Published on the Feb. 26, 2013 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Communication. It’s been a big topic of conversation in the radiology industry, both at national meetings and inside individual practices. There’s a distinct need to improve the way radiologists and referring physicians talk to each other. The sticking point, however, has been how to do it.

There’s no question, though, the specialty needs to implement effective strategies to make communication faster, easier, and more effective. With more than 70 percent of referring physicians sending their patients to multiple facilities for imaging studies, according to one national study, it’s incumbent upon radiologists to make these working relationships as worry-free and attractive as possible, industry experts said.

“The overall effectiveness of an organization is highly dependent upon the radiology department’s ability to provide top-notch service to referring physicians, and streamlined communication is a very important piece of that puzzle,” said Mats Björnemo, director of radiology IT product marketing at Sectra, a Sweden-based radiology consulting firm. “Radiology lies at the very center of the healthcare chain. Most patients pass through an imaging department at one point or another in their treatment.”

Not only does this fluid information transfer allow for immediate input from radiologists, potentially staving off any inappropriate or repeat testing, but it also ensures patients experience fewer — if any — delays in care. In addition, these processes help radiologists quickly share any critical findings, as well as play an active role in multi-disciplinary discussions, Björnemo said.

Why Improve Communication?

While many industry leaders promote better communication as a way to raise your department’s profile within a health system or demonstrate the impact you make as radiologists, there are other reasons behind fine-tuning the way you connect with referring physicians.

According to an October 2012 Sectra report, doctors have a great interest in being able to access your schedule and book appointments for their patients online. But only 7 percent of surveyed physicians indicate the radiologists to whom they refer have web scheduling as an option. Many physicians included in the report consider offering this capability is vital to completing time-sensitive scans.

That doesn’t mean referring physicians want to eliminate all face-to-face or phone contact with you,  Björnemo said. This is where the pendulum that has lurched toward teleradiology in recent years is beginning to swing back toward having in-house radiology staff. When reviewing results, physicians want — and appreciate — being able to ask questions and talk with you directly.

Steps to Take

To effectively improve communication, however, you will need the right tools. In today’s mobile world, you will likely get the most use out of zero-footprint viewers that require no software installation or extra equipment, Björnemo said. It’s also important to consider communication products that are vendor-neutral.

For example, Carestream’s Vue Motion offers zero-footprint, vendor-neutral access to diagnostic images through any web browser or electronic health record. Without installing or downloading software, providers can use sticky-note communication, order information entry, side-by-side image display for comparisons, and synchronize images.

This type of universal product is particularly efficient in transferring critical findings in a timely manner, Björnemo said.

Clear communication can also be difficult because radiologists dictate reports in their own style and lexicon, and these differences can sometimes confuse referring physicians. And, communications products that standardize report narratives have eliminated this problem, said Aaron Brauser, Catalyst solutions manager at M*Modal. The M*Modal Catalyst for Radiology™ product uses the RadLex® Term Browser to create uniform reports.

“The biggest challenge to communication lies with the various inconsistencies of systems used in complex healthcare environments, and we’re starting to see people move toward uniformity,” Brauser said. “It’s important that no matter how the radiologists might dictate the report,  or who the report is from, that the referring physician be able to readily see what’s indicated.”

In addition to implementing a product that is compatible with almost any system and standardizing your reports, 60 percent of referring physician’s surveyed in Sectra’s report indicated 3D visualization would improve communication. Presenting findings this way would be one strategy for enhancing their ability to present and explain results to patients, they said.

To read the remainder of the story at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/how-radiologists-can-improve-communication-referrers

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March 8, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breast Imaging Market Is Picking Up After Slow Period

Published on the March 7, 2013 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

The tides are turning for breast imagers nationwide. After struggling through several years of declining demand and facility closures, the market is rebounding and more growth is expected.

The number of breast imaging facilities dropped by nearly 7 percent from 2002 to 2011, according to a recent report from global growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan. Roberto Aranibar, a Frost & Sullivan advanced medical technologies industry analyst, said several factors  — the  rise in breast cancer incidents, an increase in breast cancer surgical procedures, and an uptick in supplemental screening exams — are converging to prompt expansion in this area.

In fact, Aranibar said he anticipates breast imaging market revenues to climb from $1 billion in 2011 to $1.4 billion by 2016, crediting the rise in the number of exams performed. Diagnostic Imaging talked with Aranibar about this report, why the market has changed, and what the industry can expect.

What are the main factors behind the decrease in breast imaging facilities nationwide?

It’s part of a larger trend. There’s consolidation going on among healthcare providers, and individual facilities are reducing their own costs through staff reduction. Using their equipment more efficiently also helps them be more productive. We’re also seeing a lot of mergers between large facilities of chains of facilities. The decrease in the number of these imaging centers is just part of a broader trend.

What caused the drop in facilities to stabilize?

From a broad perspective, there’s a little more certainty in the healthcare industry after the Supreme Court upheld the healthcare reform bill last summer. Some of the major questions and unknowns have been answered. Consequently, it’s helped people better plan their next steps to maintain the stability of their facilities.

What do you expect will happen with breast imaging over the next five years?

There are many different trends going on right now. There’s a lot of controversy around X-ray mammography and its risks and benefits. Based on that, it’s probably the most highly-regulated imaging field. There’s a lot of technological innovation in this area — a lot of new imaging systems with different modalities, including MRI, ultrasound, molecular breast imaging, and tomosynthesis.

I think one of the biggest trends we see is there’s a lot of talk about breast density notification legislation. That’s a major factor when considering what will happen in the market over the next few years. By law, physicians must include in a woman’s mammography results letter if she has been identified as having dense breast tissue, explain the implications, and discuss whether they could benefit from supplemental exams. We saw a major increase in breast ultrasound procedures after the law went into effect in Connecticut. X-ray mammography is a great tool — it’s very efficient, fast, and cost effective, but it’s being questioned more than ever right now for its reliability. That leaves the door open for a lot of supplemental exams to come into the picture, and that’s where more of the growth in this field will be concentrated.

Breast ultrasound is also an area that is expected to grow. In addition, there’s a major study out that could help move tomosynthesis, which is currently really costly and not something that CMS reimburses for, into something that could get the agency’s approval for reimbursement. As soon as something like that happens, and the cost comes down, we’ll start to see it used more. It’s really proven itself to be a reliable and effective tool, and I think you’ll see a lot more of this as facilities try to stay at the forefront of technology. Rather than referring their patients out for supplemental exams, facilities are going to try to keep everything in-house.

Molecular breast imaging is a modality like PET and nuclear medicine. It involves an injection of radioactive tracers, and radiologists look at where those tracers are concentrated. It’s a more tedious process, and there’s as learning curve involved. Facilities must be licensed to handle radioactive material, and the procedure takes longer, is more costly, and it isn’t reimbursable by CMS. There’s work ongoing now to try to prove that molecular breast imaging is more diagnostically reliable in identifying cancers. But there are issues with it currently, such as managing the radiation dose. So, I don’t think it will be affected much as the market starts to grow again.

To read the remainder of the Q&A at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/breast-imaging/breast-imaging-market-picking-after-slow-period

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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