Better Isn't Good Enough - Challenging the Imaging Community
By: Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., MBA | May 11, 2012 8:52 AM
A couple of weeks ago I spent two days in Melbourne, Australia. It was a difficult time for me to be away from Salt Lake City (I spent only 8 hours more on the ground than in transit), but I squeezed in the trip to attend one of my favorite scientific meetings, the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, an organization of over 6,000 professionals devoted to MRI, including a combination of MD’s and PhD’s and representatives from all over the world.
I made the extra effort this year, in part, because I was invited to deliver the keynote Lauterbur lecture, named after Paul Lauterbur, one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003 for his work “inventing” imaging with MR. My keynote lecture was intended to challenge the MR community. The growth and increasing sophistication of our MRI community has been nothing short of phenomenal this past 25 years. We benefit from the same advances in technology that now enable you to manage your entire life with your cellphone, and we share the same great minds in engineering and physics that have made both Silicon Valley and medical imaging such exciting worlds to work in.
Now, as with the rest of health care, our world in MRI is about to change dramatically. No longer content with paying for fancier technologies and diagnostic tools, insurance companies, government payers, and others are questioning what we do and why we’re doing it.
The nation is moving from fee-for-service payment models, where MRI is a profit center, to constrained payment models, where MRI will be a cost, and a high cost at that. Just claiming that our fancier and more complicated new imaging machines are better isn’t good enough. We have to prove that our new technologies are better for patient outcomes, and we also have to prove that they are more cost-effective than other options.
This is a standard we haven’t been held to before and is going to require a drastic shift in culture and focus. In my view, it’s long overdue.