How radiologists can navigate the pandemic

Radiologists must face tough financial challenges, adapt to new ways of working, and advance the field with technology to prepare for the future. Learn more from a conversation with the president of the American College of Radiology.

By | 3 minute read | September 17, 2020

The pandemic has disrupted life as we know it, and the field of radiology is no exception. To hear more about some of today’s biggest challenges and opportunities for radiologists, I recently talked with my friend and colleague, Geraldine McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, President, American College of Radiology (ACR). Here are highlights from that discussion, edited lightly for length and clarity:

Q. You’ve assumed leadership of the ACR at an interesting time – how have the clinical and financial imperatives for radiologists changed over the past several months?

Dr. McGinty: ACR has been recognized as the voice of radiology that has been important from the very beginning of this crisis. We advocated for safe environments and offered guidance on how to return to work safely. Our members, especially in small practices, were struggling with financial implications of shutting down, so we’ve advocated for various relief packages. ACR is focused on empowering our members in service of our patients; our mission didn’t change, but our tactics had to evolve very rapidly.

Q. In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing radiology today?

Dr. McGinty: The financial challenges of recovering from a prolonged period of low volume are huge. As practices manage in an uncertain environment related to a potential resurgence a, we’re focused on supporting them. We always want our specialty to continue to attract the best and brightest and if practices are struggling and not hiring, do we see that translating into fewer people choosing radiology? We’re looking at the immediate and the downstream impact of a challenging financial environment.

Q. We know a big part of radiology is driven by technology. How do you see radiology keeping up to date with new technology?

Dr. McGinty: In the thick of the pandemic, we’re thinking about patient safety and provider safety. Radiology is a specialty at the intersection of technology and humanity. We’re always looking to find ways to use technology – especially now, whether that’s making it easier to clean, or self-cleaning, or enabling remote work – but technology is always about how we evolve to better serve patients.

Q. When will the field be truly ready for autonomous imaging artificial intelligence (AI)?

Dr. McGinty: ACR provided a comment letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on this topic1, where we emphasized that we should always put safety of patients first. That’s what will determine what we should do next with AI. In general, we want to make sure these technologies are meeting our goals for safety, and we’re monitoring performance of these algorithms in the field. It’s also important to address health inequality by making sure the data sets are diverse and we have a broad understanding of disease as it manifests in diverse populations. We must demand better of ourselves.

Q. Based on your recent article, “Adapting to Succeed in Radiology’s Postpandemic Future”2, what advice do you have for radiologists about how best to position themselves for the future?

Dr. McGinty: We need to come together as a community, to have a unified voice of radiology. We may come from different types of practices, but we share the value of wanting patients to have high-quality imaging. Also, as much as we’d love to go back to our pre-COVID world, we should expect continued uncertainty. The “north star” of prioritizing patient care and patient safety is a given. But how do we pivot to remote reading, tracking outcomes, and demanding the reimbursement we need to do that innovation? We must have a unified voice and an acceptance of continued uncertainty to position for success…In the short term, I’d advise radiologists not to do this alone. Connect with your peers. We can learn from each other, support each other, and can present a unified voice to policy makers.

I couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for radiologists to come together to create a better future for our discipline to benefit our patients. A special thank you to Dr. McGinty for sharing her thoughts with us. Our full conversation is available in a webinar replay.

  2. Adapting to Succeed in Radiology’s Postpandemic Future