‘Image factories’ or ‘clinical imaging services’: what does the future hold for radiology departments?
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine raises some very interesting questions about the future of imaging service provision. Who are we as radiologists, and where do we want to go? Are we running “imaging factories” or “clinical imaging services”? We would like to hear what you think in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
Dr. Saurabh Jha is a radiologist working in the Department of Radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Before that, he had a professional life as a surgical trainee on this side of the pond, in England. In a paper entitled From imaging gatekeeper to service provider – a transatlantic journey
(N Engl J Med 2013:369:5-7) he underlines the differences between the way he perceived radiologists when he worked in Europe as a surgeon and the way he practices radiology in the USA. English radiologists were gatekeepers: that is, they provided imaging studies only when they were really appropriate and necessary according to their clinical judgement. American radiologists are service providers; that is they perform and read the examinations requested according to the referring physicians’s clinical judgement.
“Evaluation of radiological services in the USA is based on the volume of examinations and turnaround time; the higher the number of studies, the better it is for the department.”
Dr. Jha explains that this difference is mostly related to the fact that imaging was a scarce commodity when he was working for the British National Health Service while, on the contrary, there is abundance of CT scanners, MRI machines, and technologists in the United States. Another explanation is that evaluation of radiological services in the USA is based on the volume of examinations and turnaround time. In such a case, the higher the number of studies, the better it is for the department.