Radiology’s Role in Health Equity

Efren J. Flores, MD, Officer, Radiology Community Health & Equity at Massachusetts General Hospital, contributed this post.  

Advancing health equity is a team-based effort in which we all play a vital role. To advance equitable care across all communities, we must come together to take action and overcome structural barriers that include racial, socio-economic and geographic barriers, among others. I recently had the privilege of co-moderating, along with Lucy B. Spalluto, MD, MPH, the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) and American Medical Association’s Understanding and Pursuing Health Equity: Opportunities to Take Action webinar. The webinar brought together several health equity experts from different institutions to discuss radiology’s role in pursuing health equity.

As radiologists, we are strategically positioned to lead collaborative efforts to address and overcome health disparities. Our involvement in the full continuum of patient care lends us an opportunity to step into the forefront of advancing health equity — and we have the skill set, technology and commitment to move this forward.

Whether we harness the technology of artificial intelligence (AI) or lean on support from our advocacy networks, we can work to eliminate the racial, socio-economic and geographical barriers to quality care. While this requires a multifaceted approach, some suggestions to consider include advocating for increased insurance coverage to improve access to care, utilizing AI-powered personalized care through patient outreach and care coordination, offering scheduling flexibility in our services, cost transparency and financial counseling, and leveraging radiology encounters to advance telehealth. Together, we can lead these efforts to bridge the disparities gap.

You can now access the full webinar recording on-demand and earn credits. In addition, the ACR offers other free resources to help you address health equity such as the September 2020 ACR Bulletin special issue on health equity and newly released PHM in Your Practice Podcast.

Together, we can lead the effort to reduce the health disparity gap, advance health equity and ensure high quality care for all.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

Join the Fight Against Radiology Cuts Due to Medicare E/M Changes

Howard B. Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR, Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Board of Chancellors, contributed this post.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, increased Medicare payments to providers who often bill using evaluation and management (E/M) current procedural terminology (CPT®) codes will result in drastic payment cuts to radiologists and other physician specialty and non-physician providers. Please know that the ACR has fought — and will continue to fight -— these Medicare changes using every means at its disposal. 

The ACR has assembled a coalition of more than 50 other medical societies to urge Congress to waive the budget neutrality requirement for these E/M increases mandated by the CY 2021 Physician Fee Schedule.

Without this waiver, radiology payments will be cut by 11% next year. With the financial impact practices already face as a result of COVID-19, this action will harm providers and patient access to care.

I’d like to highlight our latest efforts to counter these ill-advised Medicare changes and let you know how you can join the fight to protect your practice and patients. 

  • On Oct. 29 at 8pm ET, the ACR will host the Medicare Cuts: What You Need to Know virtual Town Hall. Join us for this one-hour event to discuss these Medicare cuts, steps the ACR has taken to counter them and actions radiologists and allied professionals can take to help avert them.
  • The ACR continually updates the Radiology Cuts Due to Medicare Evaluation and Management Changes: What You Need to Know section with the latest E/M News and resources including impact tables and a detailed, radiology-specific summary highlighting the impact of the changes.
  • We’re also empowering members to take part in grassroots efforts to urge their members of Congress to support the budget neutrality waiver (and avoid these cuts).

Your ACR team is committed to supporting our radiology community. We will continue the fight against these ill-advised Medicare cuts to safeguard radiology practices and ensure the highest quality of care for our patients.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

A Very Different Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Dana H. Smetherman, MD, MPH, MBA, FACR, Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Commission on Breast Imaging, contributed this post.

Breast radiologists are accustomed to Octobers filled with pink decorations, breast cancer ribbons, fundraising events and our highest monthly imaging volumes. Although we will continue to experience “Pinktober” for the next 31 days, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, October 2020 will look drastically different from years past.

Since the outset of the pandemic, many patients have postponed or skipped screening mammograms. In a June 2020 editorial in Science, Dr. Norman Sharpless, Director of the National Cancer Institute, predicted the United States could experience up to 10,000 excess breast and colon cancer deaths over the next ten years due to COVID-related delays in diagnosis. Other sources have estimated as many as 36,000 patients will experience delayed breast cancer diagnoses due to the pandemic.

As healthcare providers have learned more about COVID-19, extensive precautions — including mandatory masks, stringent cleaning of equipment and facilities, contact-free check-in procedures and socially distant waiting areas — have been put in place to safeguard our patients and employees from infection. In a recent TIME magazine article, Dr. Andrew Wagner, Associate Chief Medical Officer of the Dana-Farber Institute, confirmed that with the current safety procedures, the potential negative impact of missed cancer screenings probably outweighs the health concerns related to the coronavirus. 

Most breast radiologists are already aware that African American women are much more likely than white women to die of breast cancer, and that this mortality gap is only increasing. COVID-19 has laid bare other significant racial and socio-economic health disparities in our country. Patients have not only forgone routine annual mammograms, but also other important exams like colon and lung cancer screening and routine wellness visits.

As the pink October spotlight shines on breast cancer, I urge radiologists to use this opportunity to encourage patients to #ReturnToCare and get back on track with all of their other preventive screening and wellness activities. Screening mammography in the United States has led to an almost 40% decrease in breast cancer mortality. We should not allow the COVID-19 pandemic to erase any part of those lifesaving benefits or widen the existing healthcare disparities in the United States.

  • The American College of Radiology offers a toolkit of free, downloadable and customizable resources to help you and your referring providers re-connect with women ages 40 and older to schedule yearly mammograms postponed by the CDC-recommended COVID-19 non-urgent care shutdown. Check it out on acr.org.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and join the discussion on Engage (login required).