7 December 2015

Strengthening Radiology: The Importance of Standards

Top executives at health systems realize that establishing radiology standards is a primary concern for their hospitals. Healthcare organizations must aim to develop best practice criteria and establish tangible goals for radiology practices, particularly since there are no national regulatory standards. Ignoring the challenges and maintaining the status quo will not work; the impact of radiology on the quality and cost of care is simply too high.

As mentioned in our previous blog post, it’s clear that the majority of hospitals will not be able to meet all their imaging needs using internal resources alone. To ensure quality across both internal and external radiology resources, clear and stringent standards must be put in place. Because radiology primarily concerns the transmission and interpretation of digital data, it is easier to standardize than many other services. And once standardized, these improvements can be easily scaled to serve all the hospitals and radiology groups within a health system.

When coupled with an increasing demand for specific subspecialty resources, the need for standardization – both in terms of quality standards and process design – makes new paradigms for radiology management necessary. One of the most useful new management methods is distributed radiology, which uses software to network subspecialists remotely. This gives individual hospitals a much wider range of specialty resources than they would typically be able to afford, while also reducing costs and improving patient care. It also helps with standardization: as demonstrated in our last blog post, radiology operations often become fragmented as health systems grow, with each individual hospital in the system developing its own process. These processes become much easier to standardize and scale when they're managed with a distributed radiology program.

Distributed radiology platforms also eliminate the old constraints of geography and time, which both limit patient care. When hospital-based radiologists are connected with a system-wide and comprehensive support network of subspecialists, the highest standard of patient care becomes available constantly. Only the largest health systems can achieve continuous access to all subspecialty resources using in-house resources alone, and even the ones that can find it very difficult to maintain profitability.

Distributed radiology platforms work so well because they're able to deliver these resources more comprehensively, systematically and cost effectively than in-house systems can. In particular, they excel in five key areas:

  1. Workflow routing, which ensures that the right radiologists are reading the right studies every time, taking into account subspecialty expertise, availability, payer regulations and more;
  2. Integrated quality processes (such as double-blind and secondary reviews for high risk cases) in all studies where they are needed;
  3. Real-time decision support and live subspecialty consultations at the point of care;
  4. Data standardization for reporting, benchmarking and analytics by facility, referring physician, radiologist, modality and patient setting; and
  5. Mobile capabilities, including delivery of critical findings for faster communication, access to radiologists for on-demand consultations and access to patient information (including final reports, addendums and images).

To learn more about how distributed solutions can help your health system build a robust and comprehensive radiology offering, check out our white paper or read the other posts in our radiology series.