“Cost cutting can really kill a hospital today. But definitely quality is crucial. If a clinic considers outsourcing radiology reporting services, they first need to look at the high standards of the radiologists and then at the technology platform”, Maria Lohm says. “My company provides services from MRI, CT to X-ray exams, a total of 800,000 radiology examinations per year. We have different experts working with the different imaging modalities and in different medical specialties; we can decide who of our co-workers is the best for every single case. We also guarantee that images, as well as findings, can be shared via very fast and secure data lines. The strict observance of data protection procedures is essential.”
Another quality advantage of external teleradiology providers is flexibility: They accommodate the customer’s needs and requirements. “The customer sets the scene for us,” Lohm comments. Unilabs counts large university hospitals as well as small clinics, public as well as private facilities among their customers. “Normally, we are looking for long term solutions and our clients send us exams on a weekly or daily basis. For example, we provide our services to the Swedish County Council Östergötland which has one university hospital and ten smaller hospitals. It is already evident that in 2010 there will be a big gap between radiologist resources and capacities because the county lacks radiology trainees. That’s why we have a long-term contract with them so that we can already plan the exam volumes we are able to handle for them. But we can also close short-term gaps, for example in case of sickness.” Service costs mainly depend on exams cost but are negotiable.
“The legal side of teleconsultation services is still a grey area. Thus the applicable law is unclear: where the reading or where the exam is done? But I think, the legal responsibility should be carried by the doctor who reads the exam. Therefore, it is crucial not to change the language of the reading so the radiologist totally and fully understands what he signs. That’s why Unilabs believes in national-based centres with local knowledge and local language,” Lohm emphasises. And who owns the data? “Always the customer. It is also up to them to decided whether they want to inform the patient that the reading was done externally.”
Maria Lohm was marketing manager and later head of BA Professional Diagnostics at Roche Diagnostics before she joined Unilabs AB in 2009, where she is responsible for the company’s teleradiology business. As a pan-European diagnostic outfit Unilabs consists of 19 units of teleconsultation services located in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. While currently their teleradiology service focuses on the Nordic and the Benelux countries, expansion to other European countries is planned.