Computers, Conversation, Utilization and Commoditization

Today’s radiologists face professional problems, including commoditization of radiology services and an unsustainable growth rate of advanced imaging use, that are linked by a decline in radiologist-clinician communication. The result is the isolation of radiologists and a change in their professional role.

Drawing on economic theory and theories of information processing, Dr. Levy deconstructs the problems faced by today’s radiologists, including the unsustainable growth rate of imaging services and the commoditization of radiology services. Today, radiologists produce their commodity–the radiology report–by sitting in front of a computer screen and delivering their report electronically via teleradiology. Conversations between the radiologist and clinician are being eliminated, thus isolating radiologists from medical decision-making. Meanwhile, the supply of radiologists is outpacing demand, thus increasing competition for work. In order to slow the commoditization, radiologists must demonstrate the real value of reintegrating radiologists into medical decisions by showing how such integration improves quality of care and patient outcomes.

While an experiment demonstrating the value of including radiologists in conversations with clinicians would not be cheap, such an evaluation may be the key to radiologists’ professional future, decreased utilization costs and improved patient care.