on that note
Partnering for Survival
By Gordon Ah Tye, FAHRA
i have never really spent much time talking about physicians. For a large group
that has such a profound impact on delivery of care, i have been negligent. Historically, physicians have not had the time to
invest many hours of education to staff
or be involved in corporate wide initiatives. For us in imaging services, the work
environment typically consists of a radiologist that sits at his workstation and
reads images. on occasion, he would have
a fluoroscopy case, a cardiac study, or
would participate in a biopsy or drainage.
Back in the day, we had a physician reading room where referring physicians would
come to check out films then review them.
a radiologist was always close at hand to
consult if the referring physician needed to
discuss the images. When exams were hard
copy, that was the extent of their physical
existence. if it got lost, it was gone. there
was many a time where a misplaced patient
jacket would suddenly appear after weeks
of being a Wol. they were usually left by
physicians who would check out exams and
file them in their trunks for safe keeping.
But in the age of digital imaging and
storage, business has changed dramati-
cally. no more film. no more chemistry.
no more dark room techs. no more file
room clerks. no more alternators. no
more film hangers. and as technology
continues to grow in leaps and bounds,
the way we do business has changed even
more dramatically. our radiologists are
more efficient. images can be accessed
from just about anywhere, including
wireless notebooks and phones. and if
you think the radiologists were home
bodies before, working at their reading
stations, it has become even more pro-
nounced. as long as they turn the reports
around quickly and get them into the
image library, there are not many calls or
visits from the referring physicians.
radiology groups have been challenged
by new businesses that have emerged with
the advent of rapid image transfer. telera-
diography started out as evening coverage
for radiologists that allowed them to elimi-
nate “on-call” and get a good night’s rest.
But as the ability to transfer images became
more seamless and faster, new businesses
started to emerge. teleradiography com-
panies realized that a great number of
exams could be read remotely and radiol-
ogy groups were able to staff a facility with
fewer radiologists at any one time. it is a
sign of the times. it’s electronic business at
work. it also requires a minimum of per-
sonal contact, as communication is done
by email and reports. the new model is
the new age of service delivery, which is all
about electronic efficiency. does it work?
absolutely. is it ideal? not to me.
a stakeholder in the community, which is
part of a practice that i believe is vital.
that being said, the ideal practice
addresses the practical reqiuirement of
specialty—that we have the outsourced
ability to meet the need for expertise. obvi-
ously, the size of our practices varies greatly.
the smaller the group, the greater the need
for outsourcing for specialty reads. the
larger the group, the greater the need to
insure that those in the group are diverse in
their specialties to meet the need.
the newer elements for success that
will be required by a group will be greater
involvement to assist with the regulatory
burdens that will face imaging services, as
well as all healthcare service lines. they
would include: value based purchasing,
patient satisfaction, turnaround time,
HcaHpS scoring, rising costs, excess utilization, Medicare/Medicaid restructuring,
and overall reductions in reimbursement.
it is coming like a tsunami on the horizon.
throughout all of our healthcare services,
there has got to be a new and greater partnership bond between physicians and
service providers. if we aren’t paddling this
boat together, and our physicians aren’t
fully invested in addressing efficiencies and
best practice methods, we will be awash in
high costs and diminishing revenue . . . and
many could drown.
Gordon Ah Tye is director of imaging and radiation
oncology services for Kaweah Delta Health Care
District in Visalia, CA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in
biological sciences from California State University in
Fresno. Gordon is a past president of AHRA, received
the AHRA Gold Award in 2001, and received the 2006
Minnie for Most Effective Radiology Administrator of
the year. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.