Dr. N.Reed Dunnick

Q&A with Dr. N. Reed Dunnick, RSNA president

November 20, 2014
by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the founding of the RSNA. HealthCare Business News caught up with Dr. N. Reed Dunnick, the 2014 RSNA president, to find out what the association has been working on over the past 12 months and what radiology as a whole has been up to, as well as his predictions for the future of the profession and health care overall.

HCBN: What moment or event during your time as RSNA president will stick with you the most?
The high respect with which the RSNA is held all over the world is most impressive. I believe this reflects the quality of our annual meeting, our journals, and the many educational opportunities available on the RSNA website throughout the year.

HCBN: During your time as president, were there any key causes you championed? If so, where do they sit now?
The changes in health care are happening quickly, and it is important for young radiologists to become involved in the direction of our field at an earlier age. The Resident and Fellow Committee is an enthusiastic group of young radiologists that is already making an impact.

It is essential for radiologists to maintain intellectual leadership in our field and to do the research to advance medical imaging and image guided therapy. The Research and Education Foundation awarded $3.6 Million to 94 investigators this past year. Their subsequent success of attracting more than $40 for every $1 of RSNA funding shows the value of these grants.

The annual meeting of the RSNA provides tremendous educational opportunities. In order to further expand our programming, we are beginning it at 7:15 am. These programs appeal to many of our attendees and attendance at them remains strong.

HCBN: What are the biggest challenges currently facing radiologists?
American health care is too expensive, and we are already seeing a reduction in payment for clinical services. Although medical imaging is widely recognized as providing some of the most important improvements in health care, our imaging studies are criticized for being one of the major causes of the high cost of health care. Radiologists must educate others about the value of medical imaging and image guided therapy, and reorient our practices to move from volume-based to value-based.

HCBN: What do you predict will be the biggest challenge in the coming years?
It is difficult to manage transitions. We must learn how to develop a value-based practice while we are still being reimbursed on our volume-based system. We must partner with industry to develop needed tools, and we must understand the clinical settings and the role imaging plays in directing effective and efficient patient care. As radiology and the health care system grow increasingly complex, we will need to conduct more sophisticated research so that we can continue to innovate and apply our imaging and interventional tools to health care appropriately. Most importantly, we must continue to keep the patient utmost in our minds to assure that our interventions lead to an improved quality of life.

HCBN: Is there anything in particular that RSNA needs to work on to remain the leading association for radiologists?
The RSNA is a wonderful forum for investigators to present their research and for all radiologists to learn about the advances in our field. We must recognize that people learn in different ways and continue to make our content available in multiple formats electronically. We also recognize that not all radiologists are able to attend the RSNA meeting. We have begun addressing this by creating the Virtual RSNA meeting, and acceptance has been quite positive. We hope we can expand this to include all of the meeting content.

The RSNA is recognized as a global leader in research and education, but travel to attend the annual meeting is challenging for many. The RSNA would like to reach out to radiologists in locations on all continents and provide regional educational meetings. This should be done in cooperation with the local radiology organizations to create durable educational programs.

HCBN: Do you see or do you anticipate expanding roles for the radiology department?
Departments of Radiology are in the information business. They translate the clinical question into the most appropriate imaging examination and perform it as safely as possible. Our examination reports are intended for the referring physician, but are increasingly accessed by our patients. We must educate our patients, both generally and specifically, about the potential risks and expected gains from imaging studies. We do this well in image-guided interventions and therapies, but are increasingly expected to do this for diagnostic studies as well. As the health care field advances and new imaging studies and treatment protocols are developed, there is a need to provide the education necessary for referring physicians to request the most appropriate examinations. Decision support systems are one method, but participation in interdisciplinary conferences, such as tumor boards, is another way.

HCBN: Can you offer any advice for those entering the field?
Medical students entering radiology must remember that our first priority is to serve our patients. Their choice of a career must reflect their passions for sub-specialization, teaching or research, and there are many options for them. With an ever-evolving field, trainees must realize that their education does not end with the completion of their training programs or attaining board certification. It is truly lifelong learning!

HCBN: As a whole, what do you feel is the biggest challenge facing health care and do you think it’s something that can be resolved and if so, how?
The challenge facing us all is to provide the highest quality care at a reasonable cost. We must do this while adhering to a variety of regulatory agencies and be able to document the quality of care we provide. We can’t do this by simply working harder or longer, but must fundamentally change our practices. One of the tools we can access is our informational technologies. Information technology is critical to health care these days, and RSNA has always had a strong program in radiology informatics, encompassing everything from current practice to the latest innovations.