In keeping with the theme, speakers and attendees alike in Chicago have identified several ways that radiologists can add value and prove their worth to the health care system. University of Utah Health Care system CEO and MRI radiologist Vivian Lee, M.D., said in her plenary session speech Monday that one way to do this is for radiologists to take more responsibility for inaccurate and untimely diagnoses. Patient safety advocate Robert Wachter, M.D., urged radiologists to reimagine their work and reinvent the field.

And Rulon Stacey, managing director of health care for Chicago-based consultants Navigant, said in an interview that radiologists need to find their own way to transform their practices so their work seems less commoditized. “They need to get a good strategic mind to identify what they need to do,” Stacey said.

Others were more specific, including two prominent radiologists who offered their ideas on improving radiology’s productivity, quality and value through better use and management of the data their field is generating.

Woojin Kim, M.D., the former chief of radiography modality and associate director of imaging informatics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said that 80 percent of all data in radiological reports remains unstructured and, consequently, is not as useful as it could be. Adding structure to that data could benefit both doctors and patients.

Tarik Alkasab, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, described how by using structured recommendations in their reports, radiologists can build data registries to support research and develop imaging-driven care pathways. “Have the computer do the tedious parts of what we do and let us focus on the interesting things we have to do,” Alkasab said.

Kim also argued that more can be done to instill confidence in the field. “Error checking is no longer enough — consistency is the key to quality and value.” Consumers expect consistency, Kim said. If they wouldn’t “tolerate funky-smelling Coca-Cola,” why should patients and referring colleagues tolerate inconsistent radiology reports?

Along similar lines, radiologists can add value by tracking patients to make sure they receive their recommended follow-up tests. Some radiologists say “I’ve made my recommendation, my job is done,” according to Kim. But “the patient doesn’t care who failed” and only knows the health system didn’t work in their case.

The RSNA meeting runs through Friday.