The Bigger Picture

MDI Radiology

Near the end of the last millennium, radiology changed from being essentially a “cottage” industry to a highly competitive commercial activity, during which time many practitioners sold their businesses to much larger corporate entities. Another dramatic shift took place around 2002-2004 as many individuals set up small private groups to handle the community based medicine which the larger corporations were ignoring. MDI Radiology was one of these.

A specialist radiologist owned and directed medical imaging company, MDI has 12 imaging centres throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area, including six fully comprehensive sites which offer the complete range of services to referring clinicians and patients.

MDI was a pioneer of the use of fully integrated patient information system software and the associated archiving system (PACS), which retains and sorts the images taken. Clinton Athaide, General Manager of MDI Radiology says, “We have a perfectly integrated system going back to 2004. Now everyone does it, but at that time it was very expensive. The technology of radiology has improved matters not only for our business and the referring doctor, but for the end user – the patient.”

The next major step, as Clinton sees it, will be for the patient to be granted greater control over their information and their results. He forecasts that images will be stored in the Cloud and patients will have ‘apps’ through with which they may directly access them – although first a number of issues regarding privacy and security of data need to be sorted out. Some traditionalists fear that this gives patients an opportunity to misinterpret results, but he points out that the internet is a constant invitation for patients to get the wrong medical information anyway – in this way, they will at least have access to their own information which they can then arrange for 2nd opinions or interpretations by qualified physicians.

Increased access will fit well with ongoing globalisation. “In the future,” Clinton explains, “we shall be reporting work from overseas much more, including 2nd tier review of work carried out in other countries.” Radiology has to move with the times, he adds: “If you are not prepared to embrace technology with both arms you will be left behind.”

MDI’s medical team is led by a renowned specialist, Dr Alain Lavoipierre (please see sidebars for further details), a world-leading researcher in the field working on the development of new diagnostic techniques. Clinton adds that MDI’s front desk staff are just as important to the practice as the specialist radiologists and must at all times interact with the patients in a faultless manner. “They are in the front line and we demand the best in presentation, behaviours, professional knowledge and accuracy.”

The diagnostic services that are available have mushroomed and the technology has been transformed over the last 30 to 40 years, so the expert in the field has necessarily evolved as well. Radiologists need more than just technical skills; they also need strong interpersonal skills. “This is still a doctor driven industry,” says Clinton. “The radiologist is paramount in any of our discussions about marketing. If the radiologist is not happy to talk to a referring doctor, discuss the patient’s results with them, consult with the patient and explain their findings, they should not be involved in the business of radiology.”

There are concerns that radiology may become ‘commoditised’ because consumers – patients – are not sufficiently discerning in what they need and “the market is increasingly price-driven, which leads to increased competition.” There is room for both of the models – the bulk-billing, relatively low-cost commodity image and the more specialised, individualised attention that patients receive at MDI. “We have a lot of competition from the bulk-billing market but we do very well,” Clinton explains.

Part of the organisation’s success hinges on how MDI makes it easier for doctors to do business; as Sales and Marketing Manager, Margaret Wright says, “Referring doctors want to do business with you when it is easy, when you make their life easier. They are time-poor people.” Rather than bombard them with sales people, Margaret prefers mail and electronic communication that medical professionals can consider when they have an available moment. “You have to meet them where they are, in whatever space they are comfortable in,” she says. Indeed, Clinton believes the most important factor in choosing a radiology service may well be the relationship with the actual radiologist.

Location can also be a factor in choice. The MDI model began with community-based, stand-alone facilities and moved to a ‘hybrid’ mix of stand-alone and hospital-based practices. The latter tend to be more protected in terms of demand because of location, whereas the community practice is at the mercy of everything including the weather. But overwhelmingly, patients seem to be putting relationship and service above convenience and will travel some distance to a practice where they feel comfortable and have had positive experiences previously. “Patients are far more empowered now,” Margaret points out; since July, government regulations dictate that patients can go wherever they like for their images.

As the emphasis shifts again, toward radiology that can be therapeutic as well as diagnostic (treating back pain, joint injections for example), patients will have even more choice and more power over who does their imaging. In and around Melbourne, MDI – which is in a phase of consolidation at present but which expects to “grow carefully and steadily” over the next decade – aims to be the Radiology Provider of choice.

Stem Cells

The scientific study of stem cells has existed for a long time and has already contributed greatly to modern medicine. As scientific inquiry continues to advance and as discoveries gain more traction and acceptance in the scientific and medical communities, the true breadth and potential of this area of study can start to be realized.

December 12, 2017, 10:53 PM AEDT

Clear
Tuesday 12/12 0%
Clear
Mostly clear. Low 14C.