SR offers a platform for problem solving and, if mutually beneficial, alignment throughout regions of the country to strengthen the group’s position against the outside influences of hospital system employment, private equity buy-out, or venture-capital-backed physician groups.
As president of a 55-radiologist practice that covers 24 hospitals and operates two busy outpatient imaging centers, W. Kent Hansen, MD, has a full plate that just got fuller—he answered the call affirmatively to serve as newly elected member-at-large on Strategic Radiology’s Executive Committee (EC).
Although he has excellent support in running the day-to-day operations of Northwest Radiology (NWR) Network in Indianapolis—including Linda Wilgus, MBA, executive director, and Lori Bricker, operations officer—Dr. Hansen is responsible for strategy planning and implementation, physician operations and development, and assisting in maintaining and growing hospital relations.
Dr. Hansen assumed the role of president in 2014 after being elected to replace Vincent Matthews, MD, who left the practice to chair the department of radiology at Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Hansen generously offered to share some of what he has learned in his leadership capacity as well as his thoughts on SR and how he hopes to make a mark on its path.
Hub: What have you learned along the way as president of NWR?
Hansen: When you are the president of a private practice where all physicians have an equal stake, you learn that compromise is important, and stating a clear vision is essential to have the physicians accept and implement change. In a practice where everyone is equal, the leader’s job really is to be someone who sets a positive position for the group and encourages and supports the members to do what is in the best interest of the group, sometimes even over their own interest. It also is important to be able to understand the different personality types and communication styles along with what motivates individuals and how they receive job satisfaction or what they are looking for in a career. To manage those in a diverse practice takes knowledge and experience, but also mistakes, patience, and learning—lots of growth opportunities.
Hub: Do you enjoy leadership?
Hansen: There are pluses and minuses to it. I enjoy solving problems and looking for solutions, and to accomplish this I try to see all sides of a situation. Hopefully, that ability to see the hospital and the referring physician positions along with our interests and come up with a solution that results in a mutually beneficial outcome serves us better than drawing lines in the sand or taking a more dogmatic position.
Hub: What induced you to take on the added leadership responsibility in an already busy life?
Hansen: (Chuckle). I was recruited, but I think SR has potential to continue to develop and fulfill its role and mission of aligning and assisting private practice radiology groups to provide great care and great service. As mentioned, I enjoy problem solving. I see the challenges and problems faced by SR and private practices in general, and I find it mentally stimulating and personally fulfilling to be able to help craft solutions to the struggles we face together.
Hub: Considering all the activities that SR is involved with, what would you most like to see SR accomplish this year?
Hansen: Strategic Radiology has gone through an evolution with our alignment strategy, away from a national model, but there are some questions as to where we go from here. There are great things that we do at SR, including quality, data analytics, sharing best practices and ideas, and cost savings, which are all very important. I want to contribute to our vision for how we continue to support the core members and larger practices, but also be a flagship organization to mid-sized and smaller affiliate practices to provide the support for their growth and survival.
There are many areas where we can continue to improve our best practices, including SR’s recent implementation of compliance and revenue cycle divisions. We need to enhance SR night and subspecialty teleradiology practice to support current member groups and affiliate practices. As we combine resources and ideas, members of SR will benefit in both better outcomes and lower costs. Additionally, SR offers a platform for problem solving and, if mutually beneficial, alignment throughout regions of the country to strengthen the group’s position against the outside influences of hospital system employment, private equity buy-out, or venture-capital-backed physician groups.
Hub: As you look around the Indianapolis marketplace, what changes are you seeing in health care and what are your aspirations for SR in supporting the independent practice?
Hansen: NWR is an established practice. We have internal billing, outpatient imaging offices, manage our own PACS/RIS, and we are doing subspecialty reads including our own night reads. I think we have a good relationship with our hospitals. In central Indiana, there has been a lot of consolidation of hospitals and some pressure to join hospital physician groups. The payor market is also consolidated and continuing to put pressures on providers to drive down costs. A challenge we face is getting hospital systems to see radiology groups as partners and not just providers. If we are viewed only as a provider, then they may approach the value equation—improving quality and lowering cost—by demanding a service or seeking out the cheapest solution to a problem, without regard to quality or timeliness, instead of looking for a mutually beneficial solution.
The wealth of experience in SR groups and the ability to align groups informally or formally would allow the independent radiology groups to meet the challenges that each is facing in their local/regional marketplace. These include the need for night reads, subspecialty reads, compliance and revenue cycle optimization, group purchasing, better data analytics, contracting, education and quality initiatives, MACRA compliance/implementation, IT support or cost sharing, best practices, etc. We can provide these services now and continue to expand our services into CDS and AI, building strong radiology practices prepared for the future.
Hub: What is your outlook for the profession—do you see good things ahead for radiology?
Hansen: I do. Radiology is a commonly utilized specialty from the prenatal period to the end of life—it provides a strong connection between the different areas of medicine. There are pressures that come from other specialties that say, “I can do that,” as well as pressure from artificial intelligence and corporate medicine, but I don’t think there is a career in the country that doesn’t have pressures and challenges. We have an opportunity to invent, reinvent, and evolve, so that we can continue to provide expert, excellent care and resources to diagnose, treat, and assist in the management of our patients.
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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