New applications in AI and machine learning will make us better radiologists and more valuable partners with our hospitals, because we are going to be bringing that ourselves—that will be part of our system, it will make us a better group.
United Imaging Consultants (UIC), based in the Kansas City suburb of Mission, Kan., grew out of a four-way merger in 2000 and the recognition that busier nights and the rise of subspecialization in radiology required scaling up in size. The practice has followed a steady path to delivering greater value to its hospital partners ever since.
At the time, there was debate about whether a loose or tight integration would better serve the group, but ultimately the four groups that comprise UIC decided to stop doing things “our way” and instead create a new way of working. All radiologists became credentialed at all client hospitals. The practice achieved a higher level of subspecialization and a dedicated night shift, justifying acquisition of its own IT platform.
“It was tough because you had four different groups with four different cultures coming together and we were all used to doing things our way,” recalls Michael Parsa, MD, president of UIC. “It was difficult because people had to accept change and compromise. We did that, and I don’t think anyone who is still here would look back and do it any other way. It was the smartest thing we ever did.”
Preparing for the Future
Judicious investments in IT have played a key role in UIC’s pathway. After the merger, the practice implemented a solution to distribute the studies that would be read by subspecialists from every hospital to the UIC PACS. It also was used to send after-hours studies to the radiologists working evenings.
Now UIC is in the process of integrating its PACS with all of its hospital partners toward the end result of a single reading platform for every study, eliminating the friction of navigating multiple systems. “I am hoping by the end of the year that we will be using only our PACS across all 11 of our points of service,” Parsa says.
The tight partnerships that UIC has built with its hospitals were forged over time and many hours of relationship-building, an investment that has paved the way for achieving another of its goals—working on a universal worklist. “They really like our subspecialization and want us to be able to extend that,” Parsa says. “Having an integrated PACS with all of our hospitals will be a huge step forward for us.”
Parsa observes that the practice is assuming many of the responsibilities previously handled by the hospital: peer review, quality control, and now help with clinical decision support. “We have expressed our willingness to be involved in those things and want to be at the table,” he notes. “They have been happy to let us help.”
Next steps for UIC’s IT development will include some of the new applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning, such as products for quantifying abnormalities and enriched reports. Rather than approach the future with trepidation, Parsa expresses enthusiasm for these new ideas: “They will make us better radiologists and more valuable partners with our hospitals, because we are going to be bringing that ourselves—that will be part of our system, it will make us a better group.”
Culture and Values
Culture is very important to UIC, and quality is a central value. Parsa boiled down UIC’s culture to one of mutual respect and working together for the common goal of providing good radiology and giving the practice a good name.
“We provide quality radiology,” Parsa says. “We are not as productivity-focused as we are quality focused. We recognize that people have different styles and work at different speeds, and that our radiologists contribute to our hospitals in many different ways. We want to have a good environment in which we can nurture everyone to do their best work.”
Looking around his market, Parsa sees several trends: More and more radiology groups either joining larger national entities or being purchased by national entities; at the same time, more radiology practices are outsourcing a growing amount of their work.
“We are trying to avoid that ourselves, and that’s one of our reasons for joining Strategic Radiology: We want to stay independent with other independent radiologists,” he says. “We know that it is becoming harder to do that as more groups give up that independence. Finding a consortium that respects that and has the same goals we do will be invaluable in terms of networking—meeting, talking, finding projects to work on together, and coming together with other radiologists who think the same way we do, want to stay independent, and want to do good radiology.”
Hub is the monthly newsletter published for the membership of Strategic Radiology practices. It includes coalition and practice news as well as news and commentary of interest to radiology professionals.
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