Mastering Follow-ups. The Imaging Center Perspective

Mastering Follow-ups. The Imaging Center Perspective

Millions of radiology reports produced by imaging centers include follow-up recommendations for further testing. But only a fraction of patients returns for follow-up scans, making follow-ups a significant opportunity for imaging center growth today.

 This document presents 

Imaging follow-up gap

The gap in numbers

The ‘follow-up gap’ is one of the leading challenges in radiology, with many patients not returning for further tests recommended in initial reports. 

Industry studies and Agamon Health’s own internal data show that 10% of all imaging studies require some type of follow-up. 

77% of follow-up recommendations are CT, MRI & PET

Only 15% of these patients actually adhere to the recommendation. In some populations, the impact of loss to follow-up is much more profound. Particularly in low-income areas, the adherence rate is significantly lower, putting an additional burden on a population that typically has numerous healthcare challenges. 

There are a number of factors creating this significant adherence gap. Siloed healthcare infrastructure is a primary cause where a lack of communication between the imaging centers and their referring providers leads to patients ‘falling between the cracks.’ While the challenge of siloing is not unique to radiology, the impact is significant in this area.

New trends & directions:

Historically, radiology organizations have performed reads of imaging studies and assumed that the rest of the healthcare organization would be responsible for ensuring patients' follow-up on their recommendations for their care.  More recently, the ACR Quality Committee (and other standards organizations) have encouraged radiologists to assist in assuring the quality and continuity of care for these patients.  

Given that so many diseases are originally diagnosed with radiology and, typically, there are no central groups within the health system responsible for ensuring the follow-up of general radiology patients, radiologists/imaging centers can be the protagonists to make this happen.  

Why should addressing this gap be a high priority for imaging centers?

Addressing the adherence gap in radiology is essential, both for patient care and optimized operations within imaging centers. 

Radiology is a vital component in maximizing patient care outcomes. Loss to follow-up puts patients’ health at risk. 

Diagnostic radiology is the beginning of the care pathway for many common diseases.

5 out of the 8 most common diseases (defined by the CDC) are identified through an initial imaging study. 

Cancer, Chronic lower respiratory disease, Stroke, Alzheimer's disease,  Kidney disease

From a quantitative perspective, for every 125,000 exams an imaging center conducts per year, 10,625 patients fail to adhere to follow up recommendations. If only 10 % of those patients suffer from one of the most common diseases, then 1,062 patients with potentially life-threatening diseases will have their adherence to a care pathway delayed or missed. This could result in a catastrophic impact on the health of the patient (e.g. metastasizing of cancer).

Improving the gap between follow-up recommendations and adherence has significant benefits for imaging centers themselves, enabling them to offer greater value to referring providers. 

How can automation close the adherence gap? 

Today, many imaging centers are automating their follow-up process to streamline efforts and improve adherence. By deploying AI-based automation, imaging centers are able to end their dependence on manual methods for follow-up. 

Integrating into existing systems, AI automated systems first analyze radiology reports to identify follow-up recommendations using generative AI & NLP. They then automatically communicate those findings to the referring physician. This drives forward the follow-up process, with physicians able to encourage patient adherence and patients knowing what is the next best course of action. Patient adherence is tracked to ensure that the advised process is followed, providing a clear audit trail.

Adherence rates increase without requiring the imaging center to hire extra staff. In fact, the workload is reduced on care coordinators freeing their time to deal with patients and providers.

What impact does improved follow-up adherence have on an imaging center?

Besides mitigating risk, there are several other areas that an AI-automated follow-up solution can positively impact an imaging center: 

Successfully deployed in leading healthcare institutions in the US

The significant impact of AI-automated follow-up can have on patient care and imaging center revenue is already being felt by centers around the US.

Agamon's Generative AI Automated solution has been successfully deployed in leading healthcare institutions in the US such as Henry Ford Health System, Main Street Radiology and HALO Diagnostics, where it demonstrated a significant increase in follow-up recommendations identified and patient adherence rates. The solution helps healthcare organizations improve operational efficacy and bridge their patient care gap.

Conclusion: Better follow-up benefits all

As we have seen, loss to follow-up risks patient lives and reduces the standard of care, which can lead to potential lawsuits and reputation damage. All of this turns follow-up management into one of the key priorities for imaging centers in 2023.

Novel AI-based technologies allow imaging centers to improve their patient follow-up today quickly and effectively with AI automation. Not only does automating follow-up lead to better patient care and lower risk for imaging centers, it also opens up new revenue streams and enhances the relationship with referring partners. 

AI automation for follow-up is a win-win solution for both imaging centers and patients. 

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