The significant growth in radiology, as we’ve discussed, represents an extraordinary opportunity for hospitals to improve their key metrics while also increasing profitability. These are goals that modern hospitals need to aspire to – but to accomplish them, there are significant challenges that need to be overcome.
Despite the importance of patient care to hospital economics, radiology remains fragmented in its service delivery in terms of efficiency, quality standards, effectiveness of service and even the scalability of its basic delivery model. The American College of Radiology publishes a set of guidelines and appropriateness criteria governing the specialty. The complexity of the specialty guidelines makes it difficult for hospitals to implement and measure.
In addition to patient and quality control, staffing and specialization are also significant challenges. Addressing all subspecialty needs is very difficult, particularly for smaller hospitals and health systems: The Journal of the American College of Radiology estimates that at least 10 radiology subspecialties are required to cover all the fields of the practice.
Most hospitals do not have the capacity or range to employ this number of radiologists, which means they send most imaging studies to unspecialized radiologists. Some specialty reads are subcontracted to other practices, but the fragmentation of the provider landscape prevents that from solving the scaling problem; there are more than 25,000 radiologists in private practice in the United States, and more than 3,000 radiology groups. Incredibly, only 15 of these 3,000 practices have more than 65 radiologists.
This fragmentation problem is one of the key challenges hospitals must overcome in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the modern radiology department. But the good news is that the problem is far from unsolvable. To learn more about how hospitals are overcoming the challenges of the modern radiology department, stay tuned to our series of radiology-focused blog posts rolling out over the next few weeks, or click the link below to read our white paper: