If you’re a fan of Law and Order like me, you love a good mystery, but not when it comes to your health. While solving crimes alongside a favorite TV detective can be fun, piecing together shoddy clues is not a skill we want practiced by healthcare professionals — especially doctors treating us or our loved ones. Unfortunately, today’s radiologists are being forced to be more like detectives each day. While the practice of radiology has gotten increasingly complex, supported by state-of-the-art technology, today’s radiologists may not always know what they are looking for or may have only part of the patient’s story when they read a chest X-ray or CT scan either because prior results are missing or rich information is buried deep in the EHR.
A radiologist recently told me, “I feel like I’m a detective arriving at the crime scene after the crime has been committed. The images have been taken, patients have gone home, and I’m here to figure out what’s the next step in that patient’s care pathway.”
Often the diagnosis is straightforward. But helping physicians access and reference information and details should be a two-way street. Radiologists read hundreds of studies a day, identifying details they see ‒ the size, changes, location and features of lesions, nodules, even tumors ‒ and those characteristics, measurements, and clinical impressions often lead to diagnosis and life-saving treatment through early detection of serious conditions.
Why do radiologists feel like badge-carrying detectives?
Too often radiologists are starved for information and struggle to find the insights necessary for delivering a diagnosis in order to get diagnostic reports into the hands of referring or ordering clinicians. This slows them down, but more importantly, it impacts the quality and efficiency of follow-up recommendations and the patient’s care pathway.
Healthcare has developed technologies that have transformed the ways physicians diagnose and treat disease, and opened up new ways of collaborating — all to get information flowing between the care team treating the patient. One recent advance is the use of multimedia reports that enable physicians to read the findings of a radiology exam in a report and view attached patient diagnostic images at simultaneously. It’s really true, a “picture is worth a thousand words,” and these multimedia reports not only help ordering physicians better understand a radiologist’s findings and recommendations at a glance, they also help the next radiologist save time by understanding what was seen and noted previously.
With preventative health taking center stage, physicians are now playing an early and pivotal role. For instance, there is a growth of screening programs aimed at early detection and tracking of at-risk patients for some of the nation’s largest health issues, such as lung cancer. In March, CMS put some stake in the game, confirming Medicare coverage for lung cancer screenings (LCS) when programs meet stringent criteria for collecting and reporting outcomes from low dose computed tomography from screened patients. Programs that meet this criteria will get reimbursed for the first time, but the CMS decision added layers of complexity and time-consuming requirements that have placed an undue burden on radiologists, making collection and accurate analysis of this information harder than ever before.
Today, radiologists and provider organizations across the U.S. are building their lung cancer screening programs on a highly-manual system of tracking high-risk patients, and reporting that data to the ACR Data Registry; but with more than 10 million potential screening candidates in the United States, how do these resource-heavy processes scale?
In order to help transition radiologists out of the detective role and back into meaningful healthcare delivery, they need an efficient and high-quality way to collect and communicate quality measure data. This includes:
- Reporting technology that collects required information from a patient’s radiology record and improves reimbursement by seamlessly communicating that data to the ACR Data Registry.
- Make the radiologist central to patient’s care-pathway by providing actionable data for the next physician.
- A growing network for communicating information between facilities and with regulatory bodies or associations involved with quality, such as CMS for PQRS registry reporting, and the ACR Data Registry services.
At Nuance, our suite of diagnostic solutions including PowerScribe 360 and The PowerShare Network are supporting supporting better patient outcomes with radiology reporting. Our technology helps address these industry challenges head on, allowing radiologists to collaborate in evidence-based care without constant searching for clues.