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LIVE FROM RSNA: Looking at Value from an Informatics-Driven Perspective

December 2, 2013
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Barry Stein, M.D., of Hartford Hospital shares his perspectives on value and VNAs

“Value” continues to be a major theme in the discussions I’ve been having at RSNA 2013, being held this week at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. Indeed, upon meeting Barry Stein, M.D., who is vice chair of the Division of Interventional Radiology, and also director of imaging informatics, at Hartford (Conn.) Hospital, I learned that he was about to give a presentation along with two other radiologist leaders on the umbrella topic of “Value-Added Initiatives for a Healthcare System,” with Dr. Stein specifically addressing the topic,

“Radiology Support for Centers of Excellence.” As Dr. Stein, who has helped to lead the implementation of a vendor-neutral archive (VNA) from the Milwaukee-based TeraMedica, told me, “We radiologists need to talk about value. And value is not just a good report or a good physician.” As Stein, an interventional radiologist, sees it, “There are three elements” involved in the value that radiologists bring to their patient care organizations: “the clinical value, including supporting the major centers of excellence; the informatics; and the financial benefits that the healthcare system derives from radiology.” When it comes to the potential for providing value in these three ways, he told me, “radiology is almost unsurpassed.”

One area he sees as extremely important is the drive towards VNA development, in order to improve care management, care delivery, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. “Aggregating patients’ images is a huge time and resource sink,” he told me. “And,” he added, “I’m continually bombarded by other physicians, who need images aggregated for them from across the system”—not only from radiology, but also from pathology and other disciplines.

Ultimately, he said, “I want to make moving images as easy as moving money through ATMs, something that all of us” as consumers “take for granted.”

Of course, even Dr. Stein will readily admit that VNA itself is not a be-all and end-all in imaging informatics. Instead, like other tools and mechanisms, it is one arrow in the quiver of informatics tools, as it were, that can help to move the healthcare system towards greater value, through improved clinician-to-clinician communications, better care delivery, and enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness. What is significant is that even the RSNA annual conference, not known for its radicalism, is embracing educational session topic sessions that include in their titles the word “value.” Even in comparison with RSNA conferences of just a few years ago, that fact is noteworthy. And one can only expect more presentations at RSNA to encompass the concept of value in the future—which says a whole lot about the challenges and opportunities facing radiology and imaging informatics going forward.