By Peter Lafferty, MD
As the radiology industry consolidates and the health care world moves to a value-based model, radiology practices are seeing a new focus on upgrading their technology. This means that now is the time to embrace the digital tools that will not only enable your transition to value-based care models but also allow your practice to thrive over the long term.
There is a world of efficiency to be gained from implementing better systems, and it is clear that the future of health care will require the digital infrastructure to manage mountains of data. Yes, this will require a significant investment in the short term but, over time, that spending will ultimately lower costs and allow you to truly put the patient at the center of your care.
Here's where to invest in your digital infrastructure to ensure that you come out on top.
Data management is at the core of the modern medical practice, enabling excellent care while improving patient outcomes—and keeping costs down. A digital system that can manage patient and physician data and match patients to subspecialists in real time will break workflows out of their current silos so that physicians can better treat patients.
You might think you already have this type of infrastructure in place with your PACS, but most PACS are fractured across individual practices and institutions. An MRI might be performed in one facility, but that doesn't mean a physician can pull it up in a different office across the street.
What's needed is a solution that can reach beyond today's institutions to allow physicians to collaborate and work seamlessly together. This requires a sophisticated IT back end that can make sense of all of your practice's data and direct them to the right physician at the right time, creating a single workflow that's focused on the patient. This technology exists today and can help reduce readmissions, reduce the total cost of care, and improve efficiencies within practices and institutions.
Whether it's images, patient history information, or other data, radiologists need every bit of information available at their fingertips in order to provide the best treatment. As we move toward value-based models, access to this information will become even more critical as a way to provide better, more measurable outcomes.
Digital archives of patient data that can be accessed by any member of the patient's care team will enable more holistic care, allowing subspecialists to provide their piece of the overall treatment plan as it is needed. This IT functionality will also enable physicians who operate practices outside of urban centers to both participate in and utilize the unified workflow that a patient-centered archive provides.
According to information published by HIPAA Journal in March, 955 major data breaches occurred in the health care industry in just the last three years, resulting in the exposure or theft of more than 130 million health records and costing the industry at least $1.3 billion per year. One of the biggest causes of health care data exposure, according to the report, has been improper disposal incidents.
Many radiology practice managers fall back on cybersecurity and compliance concerns as reasons for not investing in technology, arguing that it is too costly to maintain and oversee. But investing in advanced IT solutions inherently means investing in better cybersecurity because today's technologies come better prepared to protect your data and your patients. A back end that unifies workflows and manages data is already more secure, reducing or eliminating the risk of improper disposal. You don't have to become a cybersecurity expert yourself; the investment is in the software.
It is not necessary to become a computer scientist, an IT professional, or a business manager in order to manage this transition. Investing in new technology will enable you to do what you do best: put the patients at the center of your practice and provide them with the best possible care.