It's time for radiology to embrace value-based imaging

By Aaron Green, contributing writer

May 21, 2020 -- As the healthcare system transitions from fee-for-service to value-based care, medical imaging (radiology) continues to be under the microscope as an area for providers to make related operational efficiency and patient care quality improvements. The global COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for optimization, collaboration, and connectivity, and it will likely accelerate the volume-to-value transition.

Medical imaging is more than just pushing out diagnostic reports as fast as possible. That mindset yielded short-term economic gain in a fee-for-service world, but it has led to more scrutiny and an overall negative misperception of imaging over the long term. In fact, most alternative payment models are based around an episode of care or surgical models, and although medical imaging is still seen as being on the cost side of the equation, it does bring value and quality to overall patient care.

It can be a challenge for imaging leaders to know how to successfully begin making the shift from volume to value. The value of medical imaging to diagnose -- or rule out -- disease or injury continues to increase with the emergence of new medical imaging data management and analysis offerings such as enterprise imaging. But simply adding enterprise imaging on to a hospitals' on-premises information technology system can often push the limits of those systems.

Although it can be seen as a difficult and expensive challenge to address in the short term, the adoption of a cloud-based enterprise imaging platform can provide effective management of both diagnostic and non-DICOM images over the long term. Cloud-based enterprise imaging platforms enable healthcare providers to access images more quickly, review images remotely, and collaborate with other care providers across different locations.

COVID-19 has heightened the need for cloud-based models across all industries, but in healthcare these implementations drive a more efficient practice and better patient care.

A health system's journey towards an enterprise imaging strategy can include managing the tension between the shorter-term challenges and costs with the longer-term challenge of improving patient outcomes. Our experience tells us that this tension shouldn't be seen as a negative or as a reason not to start the journey, but rather as an opportunity for an imaging department to play a leading role in driving a healthcare system toward value-based care.

For many healthcare systems, opportunities abound to invest in digital transformation -- such as enterprise imaging -- and transition to a cloud presence. The global pandemic has also shed light on the need to make this transition. For example, health systems often spend a lot of time and resources on the maintenance of complicated enterprise imaging environments with multiple image archives, imaging systems, and different viewers for different departments, depending on if they have clinical or diagnostic image viewing requirements.

The last five to seven years have also seen an explosion of non-DICOM images and information that need to be made available on provider's workstations or even at home when a provider is on call. Additionally, health systems release all imaging and radiology results to patients immediately and ideally would like to provide patients with more access, including the ability to download and interact with images. However, these images may be currently housed in an on-premises IT system with limited storage capacity, an aging data center, or a data archive that will soon be taken out of service.

Cloud-based enterprise imaging can address these challenges and support healthcare providers on their volume-to-value journey. It's a movement the entire healthcare ecosystem is on together and one that imaging technology leaders have the unique opportunity to help lead.

Aaron Green is senior vice president and chief growth officer for Change Healthcare.

The comments and observations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of

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