The Growth Channel

The time for interventional radiology is now—get 3 tips for success

by Domenica Gilbert

Drive growth by appealing to consumers. Manage costs while improving care quality. Execute on opportunities to thrive under value-based care. These are some of the key priorities that health systems are working toward right now. Interventional radiology (IR) programs can help organizations succeed on all three today. IR is a medical specialty that provides minimally-invasive image-guided procedures. By offering alternatives to more invasive and costly procedures, IR programs maximize quality, minimize cost, and appeal to consumers.

Our research team has studied providers at top IR programs across the country—and we’ve put together three key tactics to help you develop your IR program.

1. Build a reliable referral base

IR is a referral-dependent specialty. Often, referrals come from specialists whose practice areas overlap with IR. These specialists—like cardiologists and vascular surgeons—are able to perform some of the same procedures as interventional radiologists. As a result, it can be difficult for interventional radiologists to secure reliable referral streams from these specialists.

To overcome this issue, we recommend three steps:

  • Foster relationships with non-competing specialties. For example, oncologist and PCP practice areas generally don’t overlap with IR, making them likely referring partners for interventional radiologists.
  • Enable physician education about IR’s capabilities. Encourage your interventional radiologists to write for medical publications and participate in multidisciplinary tumor boards. These tactics help interventional radiologists build credibility and capture referrals from across the network.
  • Focus on patient self-referrals. As patients take a more leading role in their care decisions, IR’s value proposition is increasingly appealing: minimally-invasive procedures are often cheaper and have shorter recovery times.

2. Build a clinical home for your IR program

Interventional radiologists don’t just read scans—they see patients and do procedures. As such, they need to work in an environment that enables them to own all facets of their patients’ care—from pre-op to post-op.

To help interventional radiologists execute on these responsibilities, we recommend three steps:

  • Have a consultation room available for IR use. Interventional radiologists need space to speak with patients and make clinical decisions about treatment plans.  
  • Dedicate a post-op space for interventional radiologists to use to follow up with their patients.  
  • Hire interventional radiologists and office staff who are energized by working with patients across the entire care continuum and have strong communication skills.

3. Invest in the appropriate IR technology for your growth ambition

There is no one-size-fits-all model for IR programs—some programs may employ dozens of interventional radiologists subspecializing in oncology and neurology, while others may have a single interventional radiologist who splits his or her time reading diagnostic CTs and MRIs. It’s important to map your program’s investments to your growth ambition for IR services.

One way for strategic planners to rationalize IR technology purchase decisions is to consider whether your ambition is to be a basic, intermediate, or advanced IR program:

  • Basic centers should invest in digital fluoroscopy platforms and ultrasound-guidance equipment, which are needed for basic procedures, such as biopsies.
  • Intermediate programs tend to use similar technologies as basic centers. However, intermediate programs need a dedicated IR suite to enable efficient workflow.  
  • Advanced IR programs tend to have at least two dedicated IR suites: one equipped with a fluoroscopy-enabled x-ray and a second, more versatile suite enabled with either ultrasound or CT-fusion platforms. At some AMCs or centers with a specialized case mix, IR programs have also invested in MR-fusion platforms.

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