“Culture trumps strategy—every time!” Peter Bartling

Whenever I mention or quote this line, no one looks at me with surprise, and I have never had anyone ask me to explain what it means. Yet the one thing lacking in most radiology groups is a culture that creates and rewards the three essentials required for success in today’s healthcare environment:

  1. The development of entrepreneurial, out-of-the-box thought processes directed at increasing efficiency and effectiveness that drive improved productivity and profitability.
  2. The development of an aggressive, client-driven focus where each radiologist is motivated to develop and implement practices that can lead to gains in patient satisfaction, client satisfaction and retention.
  3. The development of an atmosphere of teamwork, cooperation and collaboration rather than dictatorship, command and control.

Radiologists work day-in and day-out with the processes and activities required to generate interpretations and provide interventional procedures that are high in quality and accuracy. They are in the best position to identify where improved efficiency and productivity may be able to advance patient care and clinician satisfaction. Unfortunately, they are also in the best position to have the greatest tunnel vision when recommending or enacting these changes.

In a previous article I wrote, Radiology Myopia: How Your Radiology Group’s Vision Affects the Hospital’s Bottom Line, we discussed how radiologists can overlook the fact that a radiology group’s product is not an interpretation. Like the old saying, “help is not always helpful,” efficiency is not always efficient, particularly when viewed through the eyes of a client or end-user. We have to support patient care and the patient care team by involving the radiologist as a member of that team.

Radiologists are only part of an imaging team that makes up the larger healthcare organization. Certainly, imaging provides foundational support within the hospital, but it must be remembered that imaging is not an endpoint. Successful patient care is the goal and mission of the healthcare organization. Patients that are treated successfully, admissions that are justified, emergency room turnaround times that are appropriate, and inpatient stays that are in line with expectations are what the healthcare organization requires to be strong. Without meaningful and substantive participation by radiologists and the greater imaging team in the healthcare process, the goals and mission of the healthcare organization, and indeed the strength of the organization, will be significantly lessened.

Radiologist leadership is needed for imaging to remain a foundational key to the health of the organization. In another article, Building a Culture of Success: The Four Critical Components, we discuss the importance of developing a culture of teamwork within the imaging department and healthcare organization. The radiologist should function as a team leader and work with the hospital administration and the middle managers within the department. This will ensure that the potential to make great improvements in patient satisfaction, client retention, overall productivity and profitability are possible. Together there will be greater gains for the organization and ultimately drive growth for the practice, the healthcare organization and the imaging segment in general.

Culture trumps strategy—every time—and I work with radiology groups to respond to this call to action by providing radiologist and imaging team leadership that focuses on and strengthens a culture that puts patients and patient care first.


A special thanks to Peter Bartling, for inspiring this piece.