The Secret Ingredient

Leadership skills can make the difference between helping your practice succeed and watching your group fall behind the curve.

The Secret Ingredient - Leadership Skills

Frank J. Lexa, MD, MBA, chair of the ACR Practice Leaders Meeting and professor and vice chair of research and academic affairs at the Drexel University College of Medicine department of radiological sciences, discusses new payment models, redefining success, and why leadership matters for radiologists.

Q: What do you hope attendees take away from this year’s meeting?

A: At the end of the meeting, I hope they understand that they’re not alone. This is a chance to see how other radiology practices are reacting to the challenges in health care right now. We’ll be sharing best practices and providing support to each other as we work through a challenging situation.

I also hope attendees leave with the conviction that there are actual things that they can do as soon as they get home. The meeting will outline concrete steps to help your practice succeed.

Q: Can leadership be learned? 

A: Absolutely. If leadership can’t be taught, then business schools are the best scams on the planet. I don’t think it’s something that’s just in your genes. At its core, leadership is learning the skills and then putting them into practice. But you don’t just sit down and memorize facts. It’s really about getting involved.

Q: How can radiologists prepare to be leaders in the new payment structure?

A: In some ways, the new structure is actually an opportunity. Even though the new structure seems threatening, it’s also going to be an opportunity to shape our health systems. Our practices need people who can lead through this transformation and show their patients, their referring doctors, and the hospital administrations the value the group brings — and not just in terms of revenue through the cases we read. We should be able to say, “Look at all the ways we can improve operations and contribute strategically to the growth and strength of the institution.” Read about one practice’s efforts at

Q: What are some practical steps that radiologists can take today to improve their leadership skills?

A: Taking courses and attending meetings that focus on leadership are a great way to embark. The next step is to get involved in leadership. Start a quality project at your hospital or start mentoring younger radiologists. You could also run or volunteer for a position in your institution outside of the radiology department.

Q: Can you name a few areas in which leadership is needed in radiology?

A: One of the themes in health care right now is caring for patients in teams. Instead of each of us doing our own narrow piece of work for the patient, there’s an emphasis now on doing a better job of working together, coordinating care, communicating information, and making judgment calls. That’s an area where we need more leadership.

Another crucial area for leadership is in the formal structures involved in the shift from volume to value. Since ACOs are relatively new organizations, and each is in a different stage of evolution, no one in America has 20 years of experience leading an ACO. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for smart radiologists to take on leadership roles and help their health systems make that transformation successful.

If you’ve seen a family member in the hospital or if you’ve been a patient yourself, it’s probably safe to say that you saw examples of how the health care system could work better for the people who matter most: our patients and the people who care about them. Being a leader in health care right now is an opportunity to work on issues that matter to our patients.

Q: Why does leadership matter?

A: It’s very important that radiologists lead rather than be led. We are in the best position to understand what makes radiology unique from the rest of medicine.

Leadership can also be the secret ingredient in understanding why some practices succeed and some fail. We’ll be talking about issues such as, how can you succeed despite the challenges right now? How do you manage technology? How do you manage relationships, strategies, and marketing?

Frank J. Lexa, MD, MBAFrank J. Lexa, MD, MBA, chair of the ACR Practice Leaders Meeting and professor and vice chair of research and academic affairs at the Drexel University College of Medicine department of radiological sciences


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