by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | February 25, 2020
From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Dr. Eric Brian Friedberg and his colleagues in ACR’s Commission on General, Small, Emergency and/or Rural Practices spend a lot of time thinking about ways to improve access to imaging in underserved regions. Teleradiology holds a lot of potential for that, so they asked the question: to what extent is it actually being used?
To get their answer they sent a survey to ACR members and received almost 1,000 responses. Over 85 percent of the radiologists surveyed, (and these were all radiologists who did not identify primarily as “teleradiologists”) had some experience over the last decade with practicing teleradiology. HealthCare Business News spoke to Friedberg, who is the vice chair of the commission, about what those findings tell us about the evolution of teleradiology, and what it could mean for the future of imaging.
HCB News: We sometimes think of teleradiology as a niche segment of radiology but your findings seem to contradict that view. Were you surprised that such a high percentage of respondents were using teleradiology?
Dr. Eric Brian Friedberg:
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Not at all. We all appreciate the value of this tool. Being able to bring together a diverse group of skill sets through an integrated platform means you don’t need all these bodies physically adjacent to one another. It allows for a lot of cross fertilization, but on an even more fundamental level it allows for reading exams for sites that you’re remote to. So when you think of 24/7 coverage and holidays, sometimes it’s hard to maintain that on-site presence when you have smaller numbers of physicians in the loop.
HCB News: You mention in your study that it's difficult to compare your findings to those of prior U.S.-based research, and cite "differences in the definition of teleradiology, and an emphasis on practices rather than individuals" — how did you define teleradiology and how is that different from other previous researchers?
We defined it as “anybody who is reading remote from the site where they’re practicing,” rather than folks who have a core business in teleradiology — which would mean their services are specifically focused on supporting other groups; they’re providing over-reads, doing the nitehawking and dayhawking to provide preliminary reads. What’s interesting is that the industry has evolved extraordinarily over the last decade, where now teleradiology is used to provide final reads — meaning you see the study, you read it, and that’s the final report.
You’re no longer necessarily giving a preliminary read for management needs, you’re providing a report that is inclusive of all the findings and all the issues that need to be addressed over a much longer term, issues relating to chronic challenges that may not need to be immediately addressed.