An excellent summary of the 5th Academic Radiology and Industry Leaders Roundtable held at the end of the 2021 Association of University Radiologists (AUR) annual meeting has just been published in Academic Radiology. ["The Radiology Landscape after COVID-19: Summary of the 2021 AUR Academic Radiology and Industry Leaders Roundtable"] Each year, the AUR convenes an open discussion between academic radiology and industry leaders. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic dominated this year's discussion.
Six key themes were jointly addressed by roundtable panelists:
1. Resilience: The pandemic led to a heightened awareness of physician and radiology department employee well-being. The balance between "experiencing joy with one's vocation and individual burnout" remains an issue for academic radiology departments and radiology industry partners. Providing adequate staffing and increasing workforce camaraderie can aid in promoting workplace well-being. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for organizational resilience.
2. Disparities: The pandemic exposed healthcare disparities and inequities in the delivery of patient care. Building diverse teams, increasing access to healthcare across low resources areas, and providing high-reliability imaging solutions would promote health equity and inclusion.
3. Telehealth and AI: The need for remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic reflected the digital transformation that has occurred with the emergence of telehealth. Vendors’ operating systems, electronic medical records (EMR), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and artificial intelligence (AI) tools must address interoperability issues to ensure successful integration among various information technology (IT) systems. These challenges are occurring in an environment of increasing cybersecurity concerns as well as alongside the roll out of the information blocking regulations arising from the 21st Century Cure Act.
4. Innovation: The pandemic forced the radiology community to evaluate the status quo with respect to workflow, clinical operations, and technology. New individual modalities or combined modalities may help answer clinical questions more efficiently, addressing the needs of different patient populations – especially the underserved ones.
5. Sustainability: The pandemic exposed not only health disparities but also other societal issues such as supply chain and sustainability. It was noted that the healthcare industry is responsible for 4.4-4.6% of the CO2 emissions – more than industries like aviation or shipping. Opportunities for improvement must be sought by radiology professionals, and it is clear that industry partners are key to this endeavor.
6. New Business Models: Since healthcare professionals and industrial corporations were largely unprepared to deal with a global pandemic, the panelists saw a need to devise and establish new business models promoting sustainable partnerships between academia and industry in order to improve going forward.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the panelists believed that the pandemic has presented possibilities and opportunities for innovation and advancement towards the improvement of patient care; toward the improvement of radiology department employee well-being and the alleviation of radiologist burnout; and toward the promotion of diversity within the physician and radiologist community.