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Increased Training of Radiologists in Health Services Needed to Show Quality and Value of Services

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Los Angeles, CA – April 21, 2011 – In light of impending shifts in healthcare financing, policy experts at the University of California, Los Angeles and Yale University urge increased training of radiologists in health services research.

In an article published in the May 2011 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) which is available on-line today, imaging policy experts outline how reforms based on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 aim to tie financial compensation for all specialties, including radiology, more directly with their value added to patient well-being.

Christoph Lee, MD, a UCLA Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, and Howard Forman, MD, MBA, a Professor at Yale University, argue that radiologists are currently less well-equipped to effectively demonstrate quality and value for their services compared to other specialties. Drs. Lee and Forman refer to recent national headlines regarding medical imaging, including widespread computed tomography (CT) scan radiation overexposures and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for mammography, as two examples where radiologists were left responding to the issues rather than leading their discussions, “partly due to our inability to show convincing evidence to support our arguments.”

With new research mandates as part of healthcare reform, there are unprecedented amounts of nondiscretionary, guaranteed funds for health services research that will be heavily influenced by methodological standards governed by the newly established Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Lee and Forman, both practicing radiologists and policy researchers, argue that those with advanced training in health services research will be at a stark advantage for acquiring such funds, and “if more radiologists do not obtain at least master’s level health services research skills over the next several years, we may again be left in the dark.” They point out that influential, decision-making panels such as USPSTF and PCORI have representation from a full gamut of medical and surgical specialists with expertise in health services research, but that currently no radiologists are among their ranks.

In order for radiologists to be able to demonstrate and measure their positive effects on patient well-being through sound research studies, Drs. Lee and Forman believe that the subspecialty of radiology health services research must be elevated within academic radiology departments and that the proper incentives need to be put in place so that the brightest residents and fellows will pursue this crucial field of policy-related research.

According to Lee, radiologists have to reassert their expertise “over all facets of medical imaging, including issues of quality, appropriateness, access, safety, patient quality of life, and cost.” He argues that training future leaders in this field is paramount and warns that if we do not, “then other specialties without our inherent insights will drive the conversation and decision-making, and we will remain on the outside looking in.”

For additional information on the article and its recommendations, please contact Christoph Lee, M.D., directly at (650) 796-5098 or

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