Radiology and Meaningful Use seem to be the “odd couple” in this world of incentives and EHR push. In many ways, they shouldn’t be. Radiology practices and imaging centers have led in technology adoption and practical use for many years. With Meaningful Use, the shift in focus has moved to hospitals and eligible providers. The more “generic” approach to health information technology has left radiology feeling left on the sidelines.

Some of this has changed though. Radiology has asserted their voice into the proposed Stage 1 and Stage 2 rules, and they have seen some changes take hold. In a recent AuntMinnie.com article, the American College of Radiology (ACR) estimated “…85% of all radiologists qualify for the program [Meaningful Use].”

Part of the change is due to clarifications made to Stage 1 for radiologists and exclusions for radiologists in Stage 2. In Stage 1, there was confusion as to whether or not radiologists were eligible. This has been clarified. In Stage 2, there are added defined exclusions for core measures and exemptions for hardship. Both should be reviewed carefully by radiologists.

Regardless of the program details, the shift in our healthcare system contains overall benefits that includes radiology. Michael Peters, ACR senior director of legislative and regulatory relations, stated in an ImagingBiz.com interview:

“From the broader perspective of health-care policy, there are obvious benefits to radiologists’ participation in federal government’s efforts to standardize health IT and promote information exchange. The radiology community has seen, up close, how things such as computerized provider order entry with integrated appropriateness/clinical decision support, imaging data exchange, and the like can enhance decision making, thereby improving patient care and safety while reducing costs.”

Another shift associated with Stage 2 Meaningful Use is patient access to their test results within four days. Although this may raise the concern of some radiologists, it seems to be well-received by patients and, coincidently, does not have a time-consuming impact on radiologists.

Annette Jonson, MD, associate professor of radiology at Wake Forest University has conducted a survey with patients, and she reported some interesting results. Here are some highlights from a DiagnosticImaging.com article:

  • 92 percent of patients surveyed reported anxiety until they got their results
  • About 80 percent preferred to learn results early via a portal (even if a negative diagnosis)
  • If hyperlinks to reputable information was provided with their results, more than 75 percent said they would definitely use them to do their own research

The concern on the radiologist side is receiving many, many patient calls after they reviewed their results. This has not been the case, however. According to Curtis Langlotz, MD, PhD, professor of radiology and vice chair for informatics at the University of Pennsylvania, during a three-month pilot program, there were only four patient calls and none of them related to their reports.

Here are the key points.

  • Radiology is a vital element in the delivery of care to patients. Meaningful Use needs to be fully embraced by radiologists, especially with their past technology leadership.
  • Rule-makers need to continue to take into account the uniqueness of radiology.
  • All in all, it is about patients receiving quality care at a reasonable cost. Removing barriers and preconceptions about access to data and sharing of data should continue.

Radiology plays a meaningful role in Meaningful Use, and we need to welcome radiology practices completely within the continuum of care.

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