January 2012

Serious and Silly
By Jim Knaub
Radiology Today
Vol. 13 No. 1 P. 3

While the exhibit halls at RSNA 2011 showcased imaging’s newest tools, the lecture halls featured numerous presentations about the future of the radiologists who use those tools. As radiologist Lawrence R. Muroff, MD, put it in his talk on succeeding in an age of healthcare reform, “The future of radiology is bright; the future of radiologists is far less certain.”

Imaging service delivery is splintering. Several different delivery models have jammed a metaphoric foot in the door of the imaging suite and very much want to gain broader entry. A few teleradiology companies now position themselves as national radiology practices. Large regional radiology groups are seeking to expand their market share, too. There are imaging management companies that will gladly replace you and your group at your current hospital. And, finally, your hospital might be looking to bring radiology services in-house; you and your group may or may not be invited.

These four competitive threats—or alternatives to the local radiology group, from the perspective of a hospital administrator—still represent a relatively small percentage of the imaging services market. The disconcerting part for radiology groups is that not so long ago, such competitors held a marginal place in the market or did not exist at all. These evolving models of delivering imaging services are one of our annual “5 Things to Watch” in the coming year. This year’s list starts on page 22.

The good news is that the top reason most radiology groups are being displaced is because of complaints of poor service from referring physicians, according to Muroff. Fortunately, a radiology group can do something about this problem.

Teleradiology technology has granted competitors more access to your arena, but you still have the home court advantage. Make sure you put it to good use in 2012.

Hospitals simply have more leverage with a radiology group than they did less than a decade ago, and their administrators seem to like the feeling of holding the hammer. But if those administrators don’t let themselves be blinded by the promise of a larger cut of radiology revenues, they’ll think twice before replacing a group that generally has a good reputation with its referring docs for the savings promised by some outside firm—because if you are the administrator who makes the bad call in replacing a group, you’ve probably earned two imaging service transitions, not just one.

On a lighter note—which is welcome in this increasingly tough, competitive marketplace—take a look at the Second Opinions page opposite the back cover, where we’re introducing our radiology cartoon, a collaborative effort with talented cartoonist Bruce Robinson. Join our resolution to laugh a little more in radiology in 2012.

Enjoy the issue.