We authors are active members of the ACR with a collective 45 years of membership experience. This long-term participation in the activities of the ACR allows for a great appreciation of the gifts received from membership in this esteemed professional organization.
Being a member of the ACR offers us a community that helps us continue to grow personally and professionally. The benefits include everything from relationships established to up-to-date information to cutting-edge training to advocacy — and more.
Community and Best Practices
Membership in the ACR leads to camaraderie and personal growth. Through membership, one learns that collegial relationships foster the exchange of great ideas regarding patient care and the business management of our practices. Further, the discussion and exchange of ideas and experience provides the tools to mitigate burnout.
The sharing of unique individual practice circumstances and the use of productive brainstorming processes foster the collective promotion of our values and achievement of goals. The open door of communication and friendship with other radiologists, interventional radiologists, physicists and radiation oncologists across the nation results in a more united front for the College and the specialty.
The continual sharing of ideas and use of cross-communication is a true plus to our experiences both personally and regarding the practice of medicine. This was never truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we all needed to exchange ideas to innovate ways to allow us to continue our delivery of quality healthcare safely and effectively. This reciprocation of information was made possible through groups like the NLCIR roundtable and the Reading Room Digest. The Reading Room Digest not only helped raise discussion about specific practice issues in need of redress, but also promoted discussion with ACR leadership where the expertise of those specific individuals was necessary.
As we all know, networking is the ultimate way to learn and grow in our careers. The networks formed through volunteer activity for ACR committees at both the state and national levels lead to experiences that help us realize who we are and allow us to pass on our skills to future generations. These networks assist us in learning the nuts and bolts of how to advance our practices. Ultimately, these collaborative efforts ensure that our patients get the necessary imaging that is covered by Medicare and private insurers.
Quality and Standardization
The ACR has led the way in ensuring delivery of quality healthcare in this country via BI-RADS, PI-RADS, LI-RADS and many other international standards. The College has also advocated for Image Gently® and similar educational objectives. The ACR has established practice parameters for the appropriate clinical imaging for every clinical question, which serve as a guide for imaging for both radiologists and radiation oncologists, but also for physicians and medical practitioners of all kinds. This standardization has led to improvements in patient care, ensuring that the right test is ordered to prevent overutilization, unnecessary radiation and cost to the patient, healthcare systems and insurers.
One essential aspect of effectively advocating for our patients is understanding the intricacies of exam coding and the reimbursement process. The ACR offers numerous learning tools and guides for this purpose. The ACR website also contains information regarding Medicare/Medicaid, payer relations and private payers, alternative payment methods, quality payment programs and accountable care organizations.
Some of the best discussions about how to manage business issues occur during the economics sessions at meetings, over lunch with friends and colleagues, or at open mic sessions at state and national ACR meetings. Many ideas are discussed in the Voice of Radiology blog about how to avoid the stumbling blocks of radiology practice. Some of these tips and pointers come through on the Reading Room community of ACR Engage, where we can learn how others are approaching topics with good open discussion. Members can also exchange best practices to advance their practices and the profession through the JACR and the ACR Bulletin, both monthly publications of the College.
Education and Professional Development
The educational opportunities the ACR provides via the ACR Education Center and Continuous Professional Improvement modules are invaluable. The ACR has led the way in education and training by ensuring that radiologists stay current in the many areas of imaging, interventional medicine and radiation oncology. Topics covered include breast, chest/cardiac, GU/GI, musculoskeletal, neuroradiology, pediatric, ultrasound and vascular interventional imaging.
Those who want to learn about the essentials of business practice can take advantage of the opportunities afforded through the Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI). RLI opportunities include planned lectures such as the RLI Power Hour as well as podcasts, on-demand recordings, case studies and in-person programs. These options offer great opportunities for ACR members to advance their leadership and business skills. The RLI has also recently started the Learning to Lead Bootcamp for new and aspiring leaders to gain knowledge, practice new skills and discover how others have tackled challenges.
Advocacy and Economics
To quote the late body language expert, political consultant and coach Chris Ulrich, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” This has been one of our biggest learning points with the ACR. If we as a specialty are not represented in discussions with CMS, other government agencies and legislators about the management of healthcare in this country, not only will we rewarded with poor reimbursement, but we will also not have influence with legislative measures dealing with issues like certificate of need and implementation of electronic health records. Absence from participation in the formulation of these important programs and issues has untoward impacts on patient care and all medical professionals.
Oftentimes, those at both state and federal levels of the government do not understand the issues of medicine in a complete sense, and through a lack of knowledge they make decisions that are not in the best interests of patients. Our patients, likewise, often lack the resources or knowledge of medical care to advocate well for themselves.
Patient advocacy falls under the Hippocratic oath, where if we are not doing our best to ensure the best possible patient care, we are ultimately doing harm. The ACR helps us to reach this goal. When we support our legislative team at the ACR as it assists legislators in the educational process about medical issues and legislation, we ensure that the appropriate legal and legislative decisions regarding healthcare are made.
Trends and Technology
At this point, the ACR is beginning to work on how AI will integrate with radiology to be a true tool that will ensure better patient outcomes without resulting in more radiologist burnout. Some of this will be at a deep-dive technological level through the volunteerism of the true radiology gurus of IT. A second arm of the process is related to our ever-present ACR staff, who monitor federal agency activity to ensure that policies and legislation in this exploding realm will be appropriate and ensure company profits are not prioritized over the needs of our patients.
None of us can do the job of protecting our patients and ensuring their best care alone. Nor can we as solitary individuals lobby for equitable reimbursement. We must instead join as a collective force of our many varied talents to ensure that we all reach common goals.
This is why being a member, and hopefully an active member, of the ACR is necessary, and explains why supporting lobbying efforts of our specialty is important.
The ACR is now 100 years strong. It will continue into the next century at the vanguard of medical advocacy in promoting the best care for our patients and supporting the needs of all members of our radiology family.
Valerie L. Jewells, DO, FACR, FAOCR, is a professor of neuroradiology and an adjunct professor of neurology with the University of North Carolina; and Joshua M. McDonald, MD, FACR, is a diagnostic radiologist with Radiology Consultants of Iowa. Both serve on the ACR Centennial Future Committee.