Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Is Happening At AHRA These Days?

I enjoy attending the annual meetings of the professional organization for radiology administrators, the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators (AHRA), for several reasons. I especially enjoyed the most recent one, which took place in Dallas. First of all, they have a good education program with informative sessions, and the exhibition area is somewhat intimate allowing for easier access to vendors than some of the major meetings. There were several major vendors missing from their exhibition, however, which may be another sign of the economy as companies are both trying to concentrate on major meetings only and shifting resources and dollars to virtual symposia online. The AHRA keynote speakers are always a good choice, and cause one to pause to think about our jobs and commitment to our mission and passion. In this case, Rich Bluni, author of the book the Inspired Nurse, accomplished just that, by sharing stories from his time in the ER and ICU in a very comic and sometimes emotional manner. I promptly bought 2 copies of his book after the session to give to friends.

The AHRA organization itself is at a crossroads as their membership, which is close to 4,000, is declining. I am not sure that this is due to the economic times, i.e. that people are cutting back on membership fees to save money, or if it has more to do with the fact that the organization might not appeal anymore to their constituency. In any case, there is a major drive to increase membership and time will tell whether they are on the right path or not. 

With regard to the meeting itself, I personally found that current topics were missing from the speakers roster. No one spoke about such current topics as legislative activity around dose reporting, and especially Meaningful Use implementation of electronic health records. I also found technical topics were under represented, which is especially important as many of these professionals often face complex decisions regarding acquisition of high tech modalities. 

Walking around the exhibition floor, I did not find a lot of new products and/or services, except for new software for woman's health, especially osteoporosis. Traditionally, this is diagnosed with Dexa scans, which are x-rays used to measure the bone density presented in a graph with corresponding measurements. New algorithms are becoming available that allow this to be done using CT scans, which are claimed to be more accurate and relevant. In addition, software has been introduced to show an assessment of the spine that shows potential degeneration, which can help determine whether early treatment is needed to prevent potential fractures. I would expect that, with the aging population in the US, and the accompanying risk for bone loss among women, these applications will become mainstream and be implemented widely over the next decade. 

In a nutshell, this meeting was enjoyable; I learned a few new things and was inspired, especially after listening to the keynote speaker. We will see whether the organization can pull off a successful membership drive and is able to make the meeting more attractive to its constituency next year.