Just when you think you have it all figured out, something changes everything.
After almost 40 years as a journalist—and several months as a consultant in radiology practice communication—I’ve taken a full-time position with Strategic Radiology (SR), a consortium of 25 private radiology practices founded in 2008, as its director of marketing.
From my perspective, it is a no-risk career choice—SR represents excellence in private practice and was founded on the principles of quality improvement and the solvency of the private practice. I am working with very smart and committed people who have the specialty’s best interests in mind. My job is to finally take SR’s story to the market after eight years of an internal focus on quality improvement, collaboration, and sharing. It is one interesting story.
Yet, I’m worried about the private practice, and you should be too.
One of the great revelations over my 18 years of covering the business of radiology was understanding the business model of how most radiology is delivered (through private practices that perform many important but little-understood services to hospitals) in the U.S.
Private practices of all specialties are groaning under a regulatory burden that continues to grow each year, while an aging population virtually ensures that volumes will continue to increase and reimbursement will continue to decrease.
The challenges of bearing up and remaining competitive under these burdens have created entrée for the same consolidators who have rolled up large swaths of anesthesiology and emergency medicine—as well as emergency radiology. They offer administrative services. They also provide hospital operations. They have slick brochures. Finally, they dangle big paydays for radiologists interested in cashing out.
The contributions of these corporate entities cannot be completely circumscribed as smoke-and-mirrors. In fact, they have served to raise the service game of radiology.
Yet, these fundamental questions beg to be asked: Whose best interest do these corporate entities have in mind—patients, radiologists, or investors? What are the long-range implications for the specialty of radiology if the private practice vanishes?
You haven’t heard the last from me, but the next time I write, I will be flying the colors of Strategic Radiology—a consortium of quality-minded private radiology practices that have banded together to share best practices, raise the quality bar, and preserve radiology’s private practice model.