The ACR Learning Network for Improving Diagnosis of Cancer was launched in September of 2021 (find out more at bit.ly/ACR_Learning Network). The Learning Network focused on performance improvement in diagnostic success in four targeted areas over a 36-month-period under a $3.1 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In creating performance metrics and strategies to improve patient outcomes across multiple sites, the Learning Network formed four collaboratives spanning lung cancer screening, mammography positioning, prostate MR image quality, and recommendations for follow-up.
Network as a Noun
The Learning Network (the noun) will serve as the vehicle to network (the verb) with diverse stakeholders in achieving the stated goals. The bench of stakeholders is deep, which comes as no surprise at a time during which coalition-building has served the ACR well. As a top priority, patient representatives will join the Network in advisory roles. We are starting with one patient representative on an advisory committee but may have more going forward. Their contributions are integrated with input from clinical referrers, medical physicists, RTs, practice managers, and radiologists of diverse genders, races, and ethnicities, who serve in different types of practice — urban, rural, academic, independent private, corporate, etc.
Network as a Verb
While the arena for external networking has unlimited seating, the success of networking depends on standing up and acting — taking the field, strategizing, confronting opposition, and working together to win. Last year’s updated guidelines on who should get CT for lung cancer screening nearly doubled the eligible population for the scans, but that won’t necessarily translate into scans being performed due to healthcare disparities, according to a study in Cancer Medicine (read more at bit.ly/Disparities_CancerMed). The change in guidelines was intended to expand screening eligibility to include more Black patients, but also increased eligibility across all racial and ethnic groups. The relative increase in patients eligible for lung cancer screening was 81.4% compared to the 2013 guidelines. There remain concerns “that despite increasing the number of Black individuals who are eligible for LCS, the 2021 USPSTF recommendation highlights ongoing socioeconomic disparities that need to be addressed to ensure equitable access.”1 However, the barriers presented by education levels, socioeconomic status, employment, and insurance status may negatively affect access, impacting the guidelines’ implementation. The Learning Network vehicle transports us to active networking across disciplines and professions — crossing racial, ethnic, and geographical boundaries, with a focus on quality outcomes.
Network as a Strategy
Going beyond the simple saying “strength in numbers,” the Learning Network is aligned with the mission, vision, and objectives of the ACR’s new Strategic Plan (learn more at acr.org/strategic-plan). The Strategic Plan’s early initiatives identify the ACR as a convener of conversations, an organization of opportunity, and a hub of AI and emerging technology assessment and advocacy. The Learning Network’s operations are founded in Quality and Safety, and highlight the College’s strength in informatics, its ability to advocate, and its track record in impacting economics to benefit our patients and our profession. The physician leaders of each of the four collaboratives are working within and across diverse practice models with the shared purpose of improving population health management. Leveraging a predictable multiplier effect, the Learning Network will clearly advance the ACR’s mission — amplifying “the voice of our members, empowering them to serve patients and society by advancing the practice and science of radiological care.”