Introducing the ACR Commission on Patient Experience

A newly formed group helps radiologists put our patients in the center.


August 2015

Now more than ever, radiologists look to the ACR to lead the way in a changing health care system. One of the most exciting areas of change is the push to understand and improve the patient experience. I’m pleased to announce an important step in supporting radiologists as they provide patient-centered imaging care: the ACR Commission on Patient Experience.

A series of recent policy decisions from Congress and CMS continues to shift Medicare payment policy away from paying for discrete, disconnected services. Instead, payments are increasingly tied to the value radiologists bring to our patients, our referring physicians, and the health care system. These policy decisions include incentives to implement the so-called triple aim for health reform: 1) improving the health of the population, 2) lowering per capita cost, and 3) improving the patient experience of care, which includes quality and satisfaction initiatives.

It will be increasingly important for all physicians to demonstrate that we are also focused on improving the care experience of our patients.

A major theme of the new value proposition is focused on improving patient outcomes. The Affordable Care Act launched the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to establish a funding stream and channel approximately $650 million per year in research grants toward improving patients’ experience with the health care system. Clearly, our federal policy-makers see improving patient experiences and outcomes within our health care system as a priority in health reform. As a result, it will be increasingly important for all physicians to demonstrate that we are also focused on improving the care experience of our patients.

Because the work of radiologists is traditionally not patient-facing, improving the patient experience in radiological care may not be as intuitive for us as for those in other specialties. How we measure patient experience may be different as well. We will need to develop appropriate metrics that can be used by payers to measure patient experience in radiology. Radiologists will also need to be educated about the resources available to help them measure and improve the patient experience. To this end, the ACR Strategic Plan charges the College with increasing the range and application of tools available to radiology professionals to facilitate patient-centered care. The College must also enhance members’ understanding of and participation in new practice and payment models that promote patient-centered care. Implementing these goals and objectives in the strategic plan will be the primary function of the Commission on Patient Experience.

Fortunately, the new commission will not have to start from scratch. The commission will work closely with the ACR Imaging 3.0™ initiative, which has already collected a number of case studies on radiologists who are increasing patient engagement. The Commission on Patient Experience will also work closely with the ACR Commissions on Quality and Safety, Informatics, and Economics in developing tools, metrics, and policies that will assist our members in meeting the requirements of the Merit-Based Incentives Payment System and alternative payment models. The new commission will also help increase collaboration with our other radiology organizations in our specialty’s efforts to improve patient-centered radiological care, including Radiology Cares, the RSNA’s program to educate radiologists in the art of patient-centered radiological care.

In addition to preparing members for future payment systems, the commission will also coordinate relationships between the ACR and patient advocacy groups and other patient-based organizations to help us understand what our patients want and need for their radiological care. By including patients as we launch this effort, we will ensure (and demonstrate to policy-makers) that the metrics we develop are indeed relevant to the patient experience.

James V. Rawson, MD, FACR, has agreed to be our first chair of this new commission. Jim is the chair of the department of radiology and imaging at Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and has extensive experience in developing strategies for patient-centered radiological care. His experience as a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute reviewer will be invaluable to understanding how best to document patient outcomes from radiological care. Jim has also been a stalwart contributor to the ACR Imaging 3.0 initiative and to the radiological literature on patientcentered radiological care.

In accepting the position of leading the College’s new effort, Jim said, “The challenge is that a traditional model of care emphasizes discrete activities in patient care. In other words, you get paid for what you do.

The new model of patient-centered care with a focus on improving outcomes means you get paid for doing the right thing. The new commission will work to provide radiologists with the tools to tip that scale.” That statement emphasizes the importance of the Commission on Patient Experience to the College and to our members, and we look forward to Jim’s service on our Board of Chancellors.

Allenheadshot By Bibb Allen Jr., MD, FACR, Chair


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