Alan H. Matsumoto, MD, FSIR, has seen health care from many perspectives: Private practitioner, clinician, educator, researcher, academic department chair and physician practice board member, as well as from the point of view of the hospital C-suite and medical associations, and as an advisor to insurance companies, industry and governmental agencies.
Dr. Matsumoto, who served as SIR president from 2015–16, will present this year’s Dr. Charles T. Dotter Lecture, “Patients and Patience: Why Interventional Radiologists Need Both,” as part of the Opening Plenary starting at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 24, in Hall 5 of the Austin Convention Center. “Interventional radiology must move forward and message in unison as we navigate the chaotic environment of health care,” said Dr. Matsumoto, professor and chair of the department of radiology and medical imaging at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Physicians must help make the practice of medicine more patient-centric and efficient. Health care costs in the United States are about $3.3 trillion a year and more than twice the expense per patient than any other country. Given that life expectancy in the United States has decreased in the past few years and ranks No. 31 in the world, the practice of medicine needs to change.”
Changes in medicine typically occur at a relatively slow pace as physicians and hospitals wait for evidence-based guidelines and best practices. But with the exponential growth of medical information, the ability to adapt health care delivery models has not kept up with the rapid acceleration in data generation. Mergers, consolidation and corporatization of medical practices, social media communications, and partnerships between payers and drugstores add to the turbulence disrupting the marketplace.
“Fast has become so fast, that slow now seems really slow. That’s why health care currently feels so chaotic and unstable,” he said.
Patients are starting to rebel against the high out-of-pocket costs for their care and looking for other options. Consumerism and patient steering have become big factors and are increasingly affecting how health care is delivered.
“At one time, patients used to go to the doctor’s office and expect to wait two hours. They tolerated that dynamic because the doctor was really nice and spent time with them and because there was very little direct cost to the patient. Patients, as consumers, are now saying that paying to wait is no longer acceptable.”
This chaotic health care environment is creating unique opportunities for the specialty due to the innovative and adaptive nature of IR. By providing timely and accurate diagnoses, and performing minimally invasive procedures with less morbidity and faster recovery times for patients, IR is well positioned to address the triple aim of health care: Better care for individuals, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs.
“However, to be effective and impactful, IRs must further develop and grow their relationships with patients to transition from being a doctor’s doctor, to being a patient’s doctor,” he said. “Indeed, our patients, who are our reason for being, can become some of our biggest advocates and allies, as long as we put them in the center of our care models.
“With all the confusion and asynchronous noise surrounding us, interventional radiologists must exercise some patience because practices are continuing to morph in a blink of an eye.”
Having patience will not be easy, as there are forces that will tend to divide the IR community. For some contingents, separation may seem best at first glance, but it’s not likely to be beneficial to the specialty and our patients for the long term. Unity of purpose and messaging must be loud enough to be heard by the government, payers, consumers and the health care community.
“The more divided we become, the more our collective voice will diminish to a whisper, drowned out by other specialties and not heard by the entities that need to hear us,” Dr. Matsumoto said. “Therefore, we must have the will and fortitude to employ patience, while we adapt and create mutually viable practice models for all members of our specialty. IR can go so much further together, as one, in our efforts to grow our specialty and serve our patients.”
The Opening Plenary will also feature the Gold Medal Award ceremony. The Gold Medal, SIR’s highest honor, goes to individuals who have provided extraordinary service to SIR and have helped to ensure the future of the specialty of interventional radiology by advancing the quality of medicine and patient care. Dr. Matsumoto is a 2019 recipient, along with Daniel Picus, MD, FSIR, professor of radiology and surgery at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; and James B. Spies, MD, MPH, FSIR, professor of radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and chair of the department of radiology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.