If you missed the May 5 presentation of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) webinar “What Might Your Practice Look Like Post-Peak COVID-19?,” you can now watch it on demand.
Moderated by Robert Pyatt, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on General, Small, Emergency and/or Rural Practice (GSER) and Eric B. Friedberg, MD, FACR, vice chair of GSER , the roughly 90-minute program and question-and-answer session provided a comprehensive look at clinical radiology’s response to the pandemic.
In open comments, Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, stressed that the ACR is working hard on members’ behalf, both to issue guidance on the appropriate use of imaging during the crisis and to ensure the various federal relief packages are supporting radiologists and their group practices.
The program featured presentations by these leaders:
Howard B. Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR, vice chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, covered the COVID-19 experience from the perspective of Emory University, where he is chief of radiology services. Looking at the overall effect of the crisis, he emphasized the need for radiologists to reassert themselves as health care leaders. The pandemic has also spurred innovations, such as the increased use of home workstations, which Fleishon believes will have a permanent effect on radiology workflow. Dr. Fleishon also suggested that COVID-19 recovery staffing models should include work from home options, staggering shifts, reassignment of and/or redistribution of work tasks, social distancing in workspaces & monitoring personal protective equipment use.
Benjamin W. Strong, MD, chief medical officer of vRAD, described how his teleradiology company responded to fairly distribute work among its radiologists after losing over 50 percent of its imaging volume in the early weeks of the pandemic. Part of the problem was solved when 200 of vRAD’s 500 radiologists volunteered for removal from the schedule. The rest of the problem was addressed with strategies that prohibited study hoarding, increased access to study volume and slowed the rush to claim new studies that appeared on worklists.
Anthony Gabriel, MD, MBA, co-founder of Radiology Partners, which supports the practices of 1,600 radiologists in 25 states, spoke optimistically about a recovery based on resilient clinical demand and communications with referring physicians who are anxious to see imaging centers reopen, especially in the states that have lowered shelter-at-home restrictions. Patients are calling, too, but they are asking about measures taken to assure their safety. As with the other webinar participants, Gabriel stressed that nobody can predict what will happen to imaging utilization in the future.
Daniel A. Rodgers, MD, president of Kanawha Valley Radiologists, a six-person radiology practice in rural West Virginia, assessed how the pandemic has affected small rural practices. His group’s lean management policies, which avoided debt and fixed costs before the crisis and reduced radiologists’ hours during it, have enabled the practice to endure the loss of 65 percent of imaging volume from early March to mid-April. New infection control measures are being enforced, and Rodgers is working with the group’s sole hospital client to invest in equipment to facilitate remote reading.
Lyndon K. Jordan III, MD, FACR, president and managing partner of Wake Radiology, a 50-physician radiology group in Raleigh, NC, described the numerous ways it has worked with the University of North Carolina Rex Hospital to combat the local effects of the pandemic while modifying its operations for the coming post-coronavirus era. Its radiologists collaborated with the hospital’s infectious disease team to pool information about patient safety and triage procedures. They also worked with a local mattress manufacturer for mask fabrication and a local auto plant for face shields used by the group’s interventional radiologists.
To cope with the emergency, Wake Radiology strengthened its commitment to home workstations as part of a general movement for remote reading. As a demonstration of its leadership, it also used its website as a clearinghouse for information about revised policies for scheduling, registration, cleaning and disinfecting, patient protection and health care staff safety.
Catherine E. Keller, MD, managing physician of Lake Medical Imaging, a 23-member radiology practice, reported how her organization is making its five imaging centers safer for its elderly clientele and more effective with innovations, such as pre-authorization and insurance verification systems, that have helped it retain referring physician and patient loyalty in its highly competitive markets.