A Collaborative Approach to Imaging

Southern Radiology Group

Southern Radiology is an independent (non-corporate) Imaging Provider that has a well established reputation of working with clinicians to provide state-of-the-art imaging services across five distinct sub-speciality areas.

Don Kelly, CEO of the Southern Radiology Group, who has been with the organisation for ten years, has guided its growth in collaboration with doctors and other health professionals to become the premier service provider in the Sydney area; combining the highest level of patient care with the latest, most up to date technology and techniques.

The tremendous growth and success of the Group, particularly over the last five years, can be attributed to a number of factors including the employment of a highly skilled workforce, the procurement of cutting edge imaging technology, a strong focus on patient care and the implementation of a collaborative service delivery model to enhance patient management pathways.

In 2002, the Group provided diagnostic imaging services across five practices with five Radiologists and a total of forty-five employees. “Today,” says Don, “we’re providing diagnostic, interventional and nuclear imaging services across 14 practices in the southern, eastern, inner western and central corridors of Sydney, with 27 doctors including Radiologists, Nuclear Physicians and Cardiologists with over 200 employees.” The Group’s five brands include Southern Radiology, Cardiac Imaging Associates, Diagnostic MRI Services, Obstetric and Gynaecologic Imaging and Paediatric Imaging Associates.

The organisation’s growth over the last five years has averaged fifteen per cent per annum.

One of the Group’s strengths and greatest draws for referrers and patients alike is its subspecialisation model which ensures that patients are reported/treated by an expert in their particular field of Imaging. Dr Ron Shnier, the Director of MRI Services, suggests that one factor that has allowed the subspecialisation model to work so well is the Group’s significant investment in IT infrastructure and its focus on referrer communication. “Irrespective of where a patient presents across our network, in real time we can make sure that that a specialist that is subspecialised in a specific area can report on that patients diagnostic imaging study.”

Traditionally patients would attend a practice where all examinations are performed and reported by a single Radiologist, however, within the Southern Radiologist Group irrespective of where a patient enters the organisation within the expansive network they can be guaranteed a subspecialty report.

Dr Daniel Friedman, a Cardiologist at the Prince of Wales Hospital and with Randwick Cardiology, was involved in setting up the Cardiac Imaging services within the Group in 2006. He stresses the importance of a collaborative approach to Cardiac Imaging. “When technology evolved sufficiently to make Cardiac CT a reality in 2006, there was a disconnect between the information Cardiologists were looking for and that which Radiologists performing Cardiac CT were providing. A collaborative approach between the two medical specialties seemed logical and has taken Cardiac CT Imaging to a new level. The bidirectional learning and transfer of appropriate information between Cardiologists and Radiologists within the Group provides a seamless interface from which our patients derive enormous benefit. Ultimately, the collaborative process has led to a superior service and is well regarded by patients and referrers alike.”

The Group’s clinical research interests and CT training programs ensure constant access to cutting-edge technology. “Through National and International collaborative research projects and the provision of advanced Cardiac CT training programs we have become a GE reference site, which gives us access to the very latest technological developments and improvements in cardiac CT,” says Dr Friedman.

The Group’s innovative processes, unique subspecialty reporting system and investment in only the best imaging technology are all contributing factors to its success, but it is the skilled workforce of doctors and other health professionals that truly make the Group’s centres so attractive to patients. Patients can be assured that within the Group are Fellowship-trained Specialists in all key areas. “A patient can present and know that it doesn’t matter what organ system is being imaged, we have a Specialist trained in that area.”

Southern Radiology’s innovative approach to health care has made the group highly attractive to Radiologists and other health professionals across the country. “We are continually being asked by Radiologists if we have a place in our Group, for two reasons – because of our subspecialised approach to supplying diagnostic services and particularly the way in which we interact with our referrers and patients given that we’re independent,” suggests Dr Shnier.

“We want people who are experts in their fields and have a high work ethic. This gives our referrers and patients a high level of confidence which is important to us.”

To stay competitive, Radiology and Imaging centres must be engaged in original research, which also necessitates access to the most up-to-date equipment. Working in collaboration with Universities helps support the Southern Radiology Group’s acquisition of new equipment, with researchers purchasing time on equipment at an agreed rate. This close professional relationship encourages intellectual stimulation and promotes the Group’s positive reputation within the medical community.

Describing the process of selecting new equipment, Mr Kelly explains, “We look at all the ‘bells and whistles’ of new imaging equipment to determine the value that each element can deliver in terms of diagnostic sensitivity; however, most importantly, before we make a decision our doctors collaborate with other medical specialists, and only with their support are we willing to go ahead and procure new equipment knowing that it will meet referrer expectations.”

Collaboration exists not only between the Group and the greater medical community, but also between imaging professionals at each practice. The relationships that exist between within the imaging team (doctors, radiographers, sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists, secretaries and nurses) and the unified and collaborative approach ensures that patient needs and expectations are catered for.

In order to foster a sense of community amongst the various specialists utilising the services of the Southern Radiology Group, multidisciplinary meetings are held in which all members of the imaging team can share relevant information.

“The diagnostic imaging industry has become tough to operate in,” Mr Kelly says. “Radiologists have historically tended to compete on their billing profile, rather than their level of expertise. We are working to change that paradigm.” As a result, the group has bucked the negative trends of the industry and continues to grow and innovate while other service providers are rationalising their operations.

“Whilst the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) for imaging fees has not changed in nearly fifteen years, technology refreshes are constant and new and – understandably – more expensive techniques have evolved” Dr Shnier said. “The Southern Radiology Group has strived to offer doctors access to the best assessment tools available, so that patients have the security of knowing they will receive the most appropriate care for their ailment.”

As the Southern Radiology Group continues to grow and expand, new techniques and services continue to be developed – some of which were just unveiled in October of this year. The Group has established a new brand called “Paediatric Imaging Associates,” a new subspecialty area for the Group to meet the needs of its paediatric patients. In addition, in November this year, a new treatment/technology will be unveiled, called Oncothermia, which will see the Group collaborate with Oncologists and Scientists to bring this new treatment into the Australian market based at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital (Oncothermia Clinic).

Though the Southern Radiology Group has raised itself above the crowd due to its patient-oriented focus, innovative service delivery, and investment in a high quality workforce and equipment, it is its core philosophy that truly sets it apart. Dr Shnier sums it up, saying, “Doctors think they compete by being exclusionary. We have a completely different and open intellectual approach. Dr Friedman has trained people who could be considered competition, but we think we compete by being cutting-edge, being better at what we do, and by showing value for our patients.”

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December 19, 2018, 9:26 AM AEDT