Radiology Digest – April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

Radiology Digest: News from the week of April 9, 2021.

A New Career to Help Radiologists Manage Imaging Data Growth: The Medical Image Analyst

By Matt O’Connor | April 8, 2021 | Included in Radiology Digest – April 9, 2021

Radiologists are becoming saddled with increasing amounts of imaging data, particularly as the field seeks to embrace artificial intelligence. This growth is pushing some experts to call for a new radiology career pathway to help keep pace.

Two Brazilian doctors suggested including a medical image analyst into daily imaging workflow in a letter published by Academic Radiology. With a strong information technology and health sciences background, these professionals could solve problems related to quantitative imaging and health informatics.

AI-based medical image analysis is a complex field, the authors noted, and needs the full dedication most radiologists don’t have time for.

“Radiology professionals have to deal with increasing amounts of imaging data which imposes limitations on clinical practice and hinders decision-making,” Paulo Mazzoncini de Azevedo-Marques, PhD, and José Raniery Ferreira Jr., PhD, both with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, wrote March 14. “We suggest including a medical image analyst in the clinical radiology workflow.”

The pair sent their letter to the editor in response to a survey published last year which found that while imaging providers are embracing AI, many lack technological understanding. Nearly 85% said they did not see AI playing a key role in the radiology routine, potentially due to a lack of educational resources, the study authors hypothesized.

Azevedo-Marques and Ferreira Jr. advocated for designing new educational resources, pointing out that some are already prepping potential image analysts, including Stanford University and the University of Edinburgh Medical School, among others.

These new radiology team members could address many specific imaging questions, the pair explained. Such as which features may distinguish vertebral compression fractures in MRI scans or how an automated segmentation pipeline may spot inflammatory patterns in radiography images.

Importantly, the authors of the original 2020 study penned their own editorial, which was shared last month in Academic Radiology. They liked the idea of hiring medical image analysts to collaborate with radiologists. They added, however, that such roles are not properly defined within many hospitals.

The team suggested universities work with radiology departments to consolidate the clinical internship or training aspect and enhance collaboration.

To read more, go to Health Imaging.

More Than a Half Million Americans Gain Coverage Under Biden

Associated Press | April 7, 2021 | Included in Radiology Digest – April 9, 2021

More than a half million Americans have taken advantage of the Biden administration’s special health insurance sign-up window keyed to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced Wednesday in anticipation that even more consumers will gain coverage in the coming months.

The reason officials expect sign-ups to keep growing is that millions of people became eligible effective Apr. 1 for pumped-up subsidies toward their premiums under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief legislation. The special sign-up opportunity for Affordable Care Act plans will be available until Aug. 15.

Biden campaigned on a strategy of building on the Obama-era health law to push the United States toward coverage for all. As president, he’s wasted no time.

With the number of uninsured Americans rising during the pandemic, Biden reopened the law’s health insurance markets as a backstop. Then, the virus aid package essentially delivered a health insurance price cut by making taxpayer subsidies more generous, while also allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance.

Those sweeteners are available the rest of this year and through the end of 2022. Consumers who were already covered by the health law at the beginning of this year are also entitled to the increased financial aid but will have to go online or call to update their plan. People on average could save $50 a month, the government says.

The numbers released Wednesday by CMS show that 528,005 people newly signed up for government-sponsored private plans from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31.

But those figures are incomplete because they cover only the 36 states served by the federal insurance market. National enrollment will be higher when totals are factored in later on from states such as California and New York that run their own insurance websites.

The new report also showed that more than 870,000 people who went to the website or reached out to the call center were found to be eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people.

To read more, go to Modern Healthcare.

American College of Radiology Backs Bipartisan Push to Address ‘Alarming’ Resident Physician Shortages

By Marty Stempniak | April 5, 2021 | Included in Radiology Digest – April 9, 2021

The American College of Radiology and dozens of other medical groups are voicing their support for bipartisan legislation to address resident physician shortages that have only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives recently introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2021 in the House, with a similar bill also floated in the Senate. Its aim is to address nationwide doc shortfalls by bolstering the number of Medicare-supported residency positions.

In letters sent to both chambers of Congress last month, ACR and others voiced “enthusiastic support” for the bills. They highlighted “alarming” trends among the physician workforce, including an aging population requiring greater levels of care, coupled with 2 in 5 docs reaching retirement age over the next decade.

“This bipartisan legislation is crucial to expanding the physician workforce to ensure that patients across the country are able to access quality care from providers,” ACR, the American Medical Association and numerous others wrote March 24. “The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the significant barriers to care that patients face, and has also highlighted rising concerns of clinician burnout,” they added later.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., introduced the House bill last month alongside Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill. Sewell noted that the proposal would support an additional 2,000 positions each year from 2023-2029 for a total of 14,000 positions. Absent any legislation action, the U.S. could face a doc shortage of upward of 121,300 by 2030, experts noted.

“If COVID has shown us anything, it’s that we need more highly trained doctors,” Suozzi said in a March 29 statement. “Ensuring there are more opportunities for aspiring doctors to go through residency programs will help our nation provide better care, lower wait times, and increase access to healthcare.”

Lawmakers previously introduced the bill back in 2019, but it was never passed. The ACR alerted radiologists about its support for the legislation in an update posted March 31.

To read more, go to Radiology Business.

CMS Holding Claims Until Medicare Sequester Decision

By Jacqueline LaPointe | April 1, 2021 | Included in Radiology Digest – April 9, 2021

CMS is temporarily holding claims from providers in anticipation of legislation that will extend the suspension of the 2 percent Medicare sequester, according to a recent newsletter.

The MLN Connects newsletter from March 30 stated that CMS has “instructed the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021, for a short period without affecting providers’ cash flow.”

“This will minimize the volume of claims the MACs must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension; the MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary,” continued the newsletter.

Last week, the Senate passed a bill 90 to 2 that would eliminate the 2 percent sequestration of Medicare reimbursements through the end of 2021. The bill was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and would increase the sequestration cuts in the fiscal year 2030 to pay for the elimination of 2021 cuts.

The House is expected to take up the bill when Representatives return to Washington DC the week of April 13th.

If passed, Senators Shaheen and Collins expect the bill to prevent $12.3 billion in Medicare reimbursement cuts over the next nine months.

In a statement, the American Medical Association’s president Susan R. Bailey, MD, said, “The Senate wisely acknowledged that cutting Medicare payments during a pandemic was ill-conceived policy. Physician practices are already distressed, and arbitrary 2 percent across-the-board Medicare cuts would have been devastating. When the House returns after the congressional recess, we hope it will follow suit and pass this needed legislation swiftly and with bipartisan support.”

To read more, go to Revcycle Intelligence.

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