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Virtual Radiologic Presents Itself in a Press Release as a Radiology Practice

Posted Dec 18 2013 12:00am

I have posted a number of previous notes about teleradiology and the "nighthawk" industry it has spawned (see: NighHawk Radiology Services Enters Software ArenaRadiology Groups Begin to Develop Their Own "Nighthawk" Service ModelTighter Integration of Nighthawk Reports into Hospital EMRs and RISs ). Teleradiology interests me for many reasons but one of the most important is that we can apply lessons learned to telepathology as it evolves. Here's a recent press release from Virtual Radiologic (vRad) that's fascinating in terms of how the company presents itself (see: Virtual Radiologic Awarded Its 12th and 13th Patents ). 

Virtual Radiologic (vRad), the nation's largest radiology practice, announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued the Company's 12th and 13th patents....These patents are the latest in vRad's innovative approaches for streamlining radiology workflow that improves productivity by intelligently forwarding the right study to the right radiologist as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible," said Jim Burke, CEO of vRad. "As the nation's largest radiology practice, it is our responsibility to make the significant technology investments needed to advance the practice of radiology and provide the best service and care possible to our clients and the patients we collectively serve....Virtual Radiologic (vRad) is a technology-enabled national radiology practice working in partnership with local radiologists and hospitals to optimize radiology's pivotal role in patient care. vRad's more than 450 radiologists serve over 2,000 facilities, reading more than 7 million studies annually. Delivering access to extensive subspecialty coverage, vRad contributes to improved quality of patient care. And with its next-generation technology, vRad enhances productivity, helping to lower the overall cost of care while expediting time to accurate diagnosis and treatment.

In a kind of post-modern twist, vRad does not refer to itself as a teleradiology company but rather as the nation's largest radiology practice. The closest it gets to the "T" word (teleradiology) is to call itself "a technology-enabled national radiology practice working in partnership with local radiologists and hospitals." I think that the company goal here is for hospital CEOs across the country to regard it as analogous to the local radiology practice it might replace, although this new practice employs 450 radiologists. 

Virtual Radiologic is an interesting example of the progression to technology-driven Big Medicine (see: The Transition to "Big Med": Need for Emphasis on Standardization and CostPhysician Private Practice Declines; the Last Barrier to Emergence of "Big Medicine"The Institutionalization of Healthcare; Consequences of Big Medicine? ). There are going to be winners and losers in the process as we move increasingly to Big Medicine. Inevitably, some hospitals will replace their local radiology groups. With all radiology images digital and thus portable, the local groups may not be able to compete with vRad. Another option, however, is for a local radiology group to supplement its call schedule with vRad radiologists at night and on weekends or utilize vRad specialty coverage like neuroradiology around the clock. This is sometimes called the hybrid radiology staffing model (see: Hybrid Model of On-Site and Remote Radiology for Enhanced Patient Workflow ).

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