On June 8th, we hosted an interactive workshop on why imaging leaders need to refocus on quality. While ensuring high quality has always been a key issue for imaging leaders, there are new forces at play that make it more important than ever to clearly define, demonstrate, and communicate quality.
Payers and employers are steering volumes based on price and quality. Patients have more access to pricing information thanks to new price transparency rules. In addition, external disruptors, such as Covera Health, are increasingly defining and measuring imaging quality.
In our workshop, we covered how the definition of quality varies among consumers, health plans and employers, and referring providers. We also learned what our participants thought were the most important measures of quality, and how they differed across the industry. Explore our main takeaways from our discussion, and how they may relate to your organization's imaging quality efforts or aspirations.
1. For many stakeholders, quality means a lot more than just accuracy
Imaging leaders must expand their view of quality and focus on how consumers and purchasers define it. There must be components of both clinical quality (accurate, safe, appropriate) and components of perceived quality (convenient, clearly communicated, positively experienced).
It may seem difficult to include perceived quality in the same definition as clinical quality. However, addressing perceived quality is important because it can indirectly impact your clinical outcomes and market share.
2. Quality is in the eye of the beholder
Consumers, health plans and employers, and referring providers will have slightly differing opinions on what matters most when it comes to quality. Our breakout groups ranked what they thought stakeholders found most valuable, and here is what we learned:
We expected that across all stakeholders, clinical quality measures such as accuracy and safety would rank highest among the characteristics. Arguably, these measures are what most people believe is a baseline level of competency for an imaging provider.
This reasoning also suggests why participants ranked perceived quality measures, like positive experience, as a tier-three characteristic across all stakeholders. Positive experience is more subjective. Some participants thought of it as the summation of all the other attributes, while others viewed it as the indirect or subtle factors that make an impact on a patient.
Regardless, it's clear that there is a spectrum of characteristics when it comes to describing imaging quality. What is important is knowing the differences between stakeholders—and not underestimating the power of perceived quality—so that you can have a direct role in defining and messaging your program's quality.
3. Imaging leaders must take ownership of the quality conversation, and to do so they should:
- Educate stakeholders on the differences in quality: We learned from participants in our workshop that this is particularly important for patients. Consumers will assume that all ordered exams will be appropriate and expect competency, so imaging providers need to educate them on the differences in accuracy versus inaccuracy. Furthermore, programs should also consider which elements of perceived quality they can better educate consumers on, as these can be key in attracting volumes.
- Track metrics that demonstrate quality: To demonstrate quality, programs need to create better measures of quality. Imaging providers can work with clinical engineers or clinical support systems to track and report metrics back to stakeholders. Leaders must also think outside the box and create new metrics, not just rely on existing measures. Our participants highlighted that this will be especially critical to share with health plans and employers, who particularly value concrete data.
- Effectively communicate to stakeholders based on their view of quality: The differing priorities of stakeholders will require programs to build a wide range of messages on quality. This is especially true for referring providers. For example, our participants noted that referring providers prioritize effective communication. However, referring providers may prioritize distinct aspects of communication depending on if they are ordering in an office setting or a hospital setting. For instance, convenience may be mainly an office-based concern, rather than a hospital-based concern, where the referring physician puts the order in a chart and someone else takes care of it.
The conversation around imaging quality is far from over. Market forces will continuously evolve, and leaders will have to adapt their definitions of quality based on how key stakeholders view it. More importantly, to keep control of the narrative, they will have to demonstrate what quality means.