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Noted experts challenge conventional wisdom within the field of radiology

In this “Provocative Issue” of the Journal of the American College of Radiology radiologists question the status quo to spark positive dialog and improve patient care and imaging-related outcomes


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This “Provocative Issue” presents extreme opinions on pressing issues confronting radiologists with the deliberate aim of sparking positive dialog and debate that will lead to innovative solutions to improve patient care and imaging-related outcomes (Credit: iStock.com/Natali_Mis).

special issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR), published by Elsevier, challenges conventional wisdom across the imaging community. This collection of articles, the “Provocative Issue,” presents extreme opinions on pressing issues confronting radiologists with the deliberate aim of sparking positive dialog and debate that will lead to innovative solutions to improve patient care and imaging-related outcomes.

The issue is guest-edited by:

  • Caroline Chung, MD, MSc,Director of Advanced Imaging - Strategic Initiative and Director of Imaging Technology and Innovation, Department of Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Imaging, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA;
  • Christoph I. Lee, MD, MS, Director, Northwest Screening and Cancer Outcomes Research Enterprise, Department of Radiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA; and
  • Reed A. Omary, MD, MS,Chairman, Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA.


 

“We expect this special issue will provoke strong reactions from our readers, ranging from shock, offense and even disgust,” explain the co-guest editors. “The articles were deliberately selected to challenge the conventional wisdom across the imaging community.”

“We live in a divisive time of polarization on social, political and scientific fronts. Yet, when oppositive or counter-intuitive points of view are brought forward, meaningful discussions can lead to new perspectives and novel solutions,” write the co-guest editors. “This special issue will challenge us to consider bold ideas that go against the grain. Our goal is to spark debate so that radiology can continue to evolve within our complex Darwinian healthcare ecosystem, leading to greater benefits for society.”

Articles in this special issue encompass the five content pillars of the JACR: health services research and policy; clinical practice management; data science; training and education; and leadership. Some of the provocative questions posed are the following:

  • Are prospective employer-initiated whole-body cancer screening programs a benefit and incentive for employees?
  • Matching imaging services to clinical context – can less be more?
  • Rethinking the approach to artificial intelligence (AI) for medical image analysis – is there a case for precision diagnosis?
  • Should we rethink patient consent in the era of AI and big data?
  • Can clinician-scientists survive in the modern era?
  • Is there a case for vertically integrating emergency radiology into emergency medicine?
  • Should there be duty hour limits for radiologists?
  • Are we over-supporting junior faculty and neglecting mid- and late-career faculty planning?


Of particular note are two featured articles that debate the paradox of scarcity and discuss potential solutions. The use of physician extenders, also known as nonphysician practitioners (NPPs), in medicine has increased over time within a multitude of specialties including radiology. Radiologists are expensive to train and then spend too much time on low-complexity tasks and too little on high-complexity tasks, notes Saurabh Jha, MBBS, MS, Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, who makes the point for training physician extenders to take on the less complex cases.

“Radiologists should train and supervise physician extenders to read portable chest radiographs, which should eventually be relinquished to them, so that we can focus on tasks exacting more skill and more befitting of our rigorous medical training,” argues Dr. Jha. “Perhaps physician extenders reading serial radiographs can free radiologists to advise clinical teams on those serial radiographs.”

In a counterpoint article, Daniel A. Ortiz, MD, Summit Radiology Services, PC, Cartersville, GA, USA, and colleagues observe that although labor costs have been reduced and radiologists can focus more on complex imaging studies and interventional procedures, there are unintended consequences of NPPs in practice that could diminish physicians’ role as healthcare providers. They therefore encourage radiologists to consider an alternative to NPPs in diagnostic radiology: the incorporation of rapidly evolving AI algorithms into daily practice.

“Narrow AI algorithms can easily be integrated into existing workflow and amalgamated into a platform for use by radiologists,” the authors argue. “Many of the gains touted by proponents for the use of NPPs, such as efficiency, will likely be soon realized through AI to the effect of preserving the radiologist’s role, supplemented by AI. The ultimate goal for our community should not be relegating work to others but rather to work the complexities of developing a future in which we empower ourselves to remain at the helm of the imaging care to our patients’ benefit.”

The co-guest editors comment that the ever-increasing workload and the threat of radiologist workforce burnout will force us to consider how to keep up with imaging demands. Physician extenders and AI solutions are only two possibilities for practices to consider.

A final article provides an entertaining voyage into space and how the experience around radiation exposure within medicine can be applied to radiation exposure considerations in suborbital space tourism.

“By exploring the provocative, we hope this special issue will serve as a catalyst to advance the field and expand the confines of radiology,” conclude the co-guest editors.

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Provocative Issue
Guest Editors: Caroline Chung, MD, MSc, Christoph I. Lee, MD, MS, and Reed A. Omary, MD, MS.

These articles appear in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, volume 18, issue 1B (January 2021), published by Elsevier. The issue is openly available at www.jacr.org/issue/S1546-1440(20)X0015-9. Here you can view the complete table of contents and access the full text of all contributions.

A video about the issue is posted at https://youtu.be/sP84pbVl9WA.

The featured articles are:
“Navigating the Paradox of Scarcity—The Case for Physician Extenders,” by Saurabh Jha, MBBS, MS (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacr.2020.09.040)

“Navigating the Paradox of Scarcity—The Case for Radiologist-Driven Care,” by Daniel A. Ortiz, MD, Kevin M. Cregan, MD, Join Y. Luh, MD, and Taj M. Kattapuram, MD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacr.2020.09.066)

Please note that the perspectives presented in this issue are entirely those of the individual authors and do not reflect the views or positions of the American College of Radiology, the Editor-in-Chief, the Guest Editors, or the Editorial Board of the JACR in any way.

The official journal of the American College of RadiologyJACR informs its readers of timely, pertinent, and important topics affecting the practice of diagnostic radiologists, interventional radiologists, medical physicists, and radiation oncologists. The journal’s goals are to improve patient care, support the practice of radiology and imaging, and move the science forward in health services research and policy, clinical practice management, data science, training and education, and leadership. www.jacr.org

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