By Kate Madden Yee, staff writer

May 1, 2012 -- VANCOUVER - Radiologists admit they're less knowledgeable than their nonradiologist peers on topics such as healthcare policy, quality assurance, and patient costs -- and less savvy in business and management issues, according to a study presented on Monday at the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) annual meeting.

In fact, across a list of nine healthcare and business topics, radiologists rated themselves as less than knowledgeable in eight of the areas, researchers found.

Dr. Rajni Natesan of Northwestern University and colleagues evaluated radiologist competence in broad healthcare system topics against that of other physicians. The team used an online, emailed survey; respondents rated their understanding of healthcare policy, malpractice, quality assurance, patient safety, and patient imaging costs. Survey participants indicated their specialty and level of training. Radiologist responses were compared to all other physician responses.

"We're in a transformative time in healthcare, with increasing focus on cost savings, quality care, and patient safety," Natesan told session attendees. "A strong understanding of both healthcare issues and practice management is essential for radiologists' professional success."

Natesan's group calculated weighted average responses using a five-point scale:

  • No knowledge = 0
  • Trace knowledge = 1
  • Below competent = 2
  • Competent = 3
  • More than competent = 4
  • Highly competent = 5

The team received 3,724 completed surveys: 784 (21%) were from radiologists and 2,940 (79%) were from nonradiologists. Of the radiologists, 7% were attending physicians and 14% were trainees, and of the nonradiologists, 34% were attendings and 45% were trainees. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents came from university hospital settings.

Weighted average knowledge of healthcare issues
Radiologists Nonradiologists
Patient imaging costs 2.17 2.32
Knowledge of malpractice concerns 2.30 2.36
Healthcare policy 2.43 2.33
Quality assurance 2.57 2.62
Patient safety 3.10 3.33

Natesan acknowledged that one of study's limitations could be respondents' tendency to inflate their competence ratings: Actual competence may be lower.

"We conducted this first stage of research to get a Gestalt -- we realize that self-reported competence may not be the most accurate metric," she said. "Our next step is to administer objective tests to understand why these gaps in knowledge exist and to understand what educational formats are needed to narrow them."

No better in business

In a related study using the same data, Natesan and colleagues found that radiologists rate their understanding of marketing and practice management as lower than "below competent," on average.

The study showed that both radiologists and nonradiologists rated their knowledge of four business and marketing topics as less than competent. Radiologists were most confident in their knowledge of information technology -- although to the researchers' surprise, they still rated themselves as having less IT knowledge than other physicians.

Knowledge of business issues
Radiologists Nonradiologists
Knowledge of marketing 1.94 1.95
Knowledge of practice management 1.97 2.16
Knowledge of equipment and test costs 2.15 2.23
Knowledge of IT 2.48 2.69

"Radiology practices must understand core business concepts or risk losing solvency," Natesan concluded.

Copyright © 2012

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