In the mid 1990’s radiologists began exploring tele radiology. Images were moved from one location, typically where the patient had the exam, to another for interpretation. This transfer allowed load balancing and subspecialty interpretation within a pool of radiologists. By having the right radiologist read the right case, outcomes improve while the cost of care is reduced. Today teleradiology is a mature market. There are networks across the country, a combination of business alliances and technology, moving images.
Teleradiology: a Hub Enabling Care Through the Continuum
But, what if teleradiology networks could be used for more than X-Rays? What if the highway built to carry images could also facilitate other care opportunities for telemedicine? After all, the requirements for telemedicine and teleradiology have significant overlap, both in terms of technology and business relationships. Radiology practices are well positioned to offer an up sell in the form of additional services on the networks. Hospitals in need of remote radiologists are likely in need of other specialists.
As an example, neurologists, psychiatrists, neonatologists would all benefit by partnering with the existing imaging networks. Speciality expertise and load balancing are not problems specific to radiology.
The opportunity extends beyond remote care. As one of only 3 clinical departments (the other two being lab and pharmacy) providing critical results, radiology is well positioned to act as a hub enabling communication and collaboration throughout the care continuum.
Yes, there are issues related to workflow and video. Radiology also tends to use store-and-forward technology (interpretation is delayed for a brief period of time) while clinical care requires face-to-face real time encounters. However, these challenges are not insurmountable.
Imaging at the Center of the Value Chain
Radiologist’s primary role will always be domain experts for imaging. However, CT, ultrasound and MR haven’t changed much in the last 30 years. Radiology should explore other opportunities. By leveraging decades of experience in managed services, tele radiology can add value to many other forms of care. If radiology can get out of it’s own way, think more broadly about related opportunities, the specialty could play an important role as the orchestrator of care continuum.