Putting patients at the centre of everything they do is the ultimate mission for I-MED Radiology’s Steven Rubic
The ability to see inside the body, to find and interpret its hidden messages, is a wondrous thing. That is, until it’s our turn to have an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or other imaging procedure. That’s when our nerves kick in. Uncertainty is a decidedly human feeling that unsettles the bravest, and it’s easy to understand.
That’s why I-MED Radiology, Australia’s largest radiology network, puts its patients front and centre of everything they do. The organisation’s purpose – to help save lives and reduce uncertainty – is supported by a robust corporate vision. A vision that incorporates the highest quality imaging and diagnosis underpinned by care and compassion to deliver the best service possible for referring practitioners and better health outcomes for patients.
“We have clinics in every state and territory in Australia, and as such we are the only true national provider of radiology services. That's a strong place to be.” declared Steven Rubic, I-MED Radiology’s CEO.
Under Rubic’s leadership, I-MED radiologists perform over 4.5 million patient procedures each year, encompassing a wide variety of imaging technologies, including X-ray, CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, ultrasound, mammography, PET, cardiac imaging, and interventional procedures. With more than 200 clinics, over 300 radiologists, and a staff of 4,100, I-MED is the third largest imaging provider in the world.
Prior to assuming the lead role at I-MED in 2012, Rubic spent 14 years at the St. Vincent’s and Mater Health Sydney organisation. He serves on the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association Executive Committee as well as on a number of boards, including E-Nome Medical Technology. That breadth of experience presents Rubic with a significant advantage as he leads the organisation toward a future that will become increasingly driven by technology and by creating great customer experiences.
“We have a wonderful engaged workforce,” he continued. “Our vision is now a global one – to be the most trusted and respected digital imaging specialists in the world, so that's a good thing to have as an aspiration. It’s possible because we have wonderful private equity owners who have been with us now for 12 months, are very encouraging of international growth and using state-of-the-art and innovative technology to support that.”
Those owners, Permira Funds, purchased I-MED in 2018. It is the global investment group’s first step into Australia, and its first healthcare investment in Asia-Pacific.
“As the market leader, our investment in quality technologies, ability to provide a wonderfully diverse range of imaging facilities and desire to be at the forefront of imaging globally creates a value proposition that is very attractive to radiologists” Rubic said, adding that I-MED’s group of full and part-time radiologists creates a large, collegial team of experts supporting the wider medical community to deliver outstanding care to millions of patients each year.
“There’s a robust pool of intellect you can draw on from over 300 radiologists, and that is significant: They have access to interesting work out of hospitals with specialist physicians as well as general practitioners; they have access to leading technology — whether that's CT systems or emerging AI systems — and we also have a national RIS (radiology information system) and PACS (picture archive communication system) that allows information sharing knowledge sharing and expert subspecialist reporting all supported with a strong quality and safety framework.”
I-MED has standalone clinics and also works with both public and private hospitals that outsource the radiology function, adding new hospital contracts every year in an intensely competitive marketplace.
“I-MED is a strong believer in connecting locally and giving the clinics in our network the autonomy to tailor health services to meet the needs of local communities. Our doctors and technical staff clinical decision making and commitment to patient care is supported by really good systems, practices and technology. We can and do invest in a whole array of systems because of our size and scale, and we take a lot of pride in that to support the quality we strive to deliver each and every time.”
Complementing the “local” approach is the provision of excellent patient care. I-MED’s highly skilled technicians are committed to providing compassionate and respectful care to patients. In addition to a dedicated customer care team, I-MED provides patients with information about their procedure or examination to help keep patients informed and reduce anxiety.
Created for patients, driven by doctors
Many radiologists in the I-MED network serve on national and state committees at board level, as well as on local advisory boards. “I would describe us as a doctor-facing organisation, and that's not always the case in medical health services and health services delivery. We believe it’s important (the radiologists) have a voice in management and as such our two chief medical officers are practicing radiologists who work closely with me and the management team,” Rubic pointed out.
In addition to the more than 200 clinics operated by I-MED, the company is building a strong teleradiology practice, I-TeleRAD.
On a recent Saturday, the I-TeleRAD group analysed almost 500 CT scans. I-MED built their own 200-megabyte fibre network that connects their clinics and teleradiology bases in Melbourne and London. “We believe it is important to have London-based radiologists doing work during their daytime when its night-time in Australia, and we're going to be doing some teleradiology in the UK soon. It's an important part of who we are,” Rubic stressed.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging as critical assets in medicine, particularly when it comes to triaging urgent cases. For I-MED, these technologies are expected to open doors on the international front, particularly in Asia.
“There are some countries that don't have anywhere near enough radiologists, emerging countries in Asia in particular, and we feel that if we can build up our infrastructure and platform for teleradiology we will be able to offer our services to some of these countries, particularly using AI to support the clinical triaging of some of their work.”
I-MED is the only radiology practice in the country that has its own teleradiology service, which is much appreciated by hospital administrators seeking to access some of Australia’s top radiology specialists employed by the network.
Landing teleradiology contracts in other parts of the world is part of the firm’s growth strategy, particularly in the UK’s National Health System, Singapore, and China. London-based Permira Funds, according to Rubic, “are keen to see us grow and they're prepared to back some acquisitions overseas. Global relevance is important in radiology, particularly as we are a good chunk of the Australian market. We want to continue to grow 10 to 15 per cent a year, and for that to happen we will need to go beyond our borders. That's certainly part of the vision.”
I-MED’s growth strategy is roughly split evenly between organic growth and acquisitions. When it comes to organic expansion, the company adapts to overcapacity by extending hours, adding necessary staff and equipment when the situation demands. Healthy investments in smart patient management and human resources systems support these efforts.
“The other half of that growth is actually acquisition growth, and that brings a different set of challenges. We buy existing businesses, mostly small, some medium, and there's a cultural challenge,” Rubic revealed. The I-MED integration team fully integrates each new acquisition, complete with rebranding, rehiring the staff, introducing technologies and clinical approaches.
“We don't buy businesses and simply add them to our list of clinics,” Rubic stressed. “Once you’ve done your due diligence and then subsequently purchased them, you've got to make it all happen. You have to culturally invest in these new businesses so that the staff and the referrers to those clinics and businesses understand they're joining a strong network that is very interested in quality, safety and patient care, and invests in improving the services offered to patients and referrers.”
As the company moves towards becoming a global radiology business, eclipsing the pace of change is an essential challenge. Said Rubic, “I'm not just talking about the way you engage with your imaging technology, I'm talking about the use of data. How will AI supplement what's going on with diagnostics, how AI will supplement what's going on in our customer contact centres and the way we engage with all our various customer groups?”
At present, the organisation generates 35 terabytes of images and reports each week. “We are just now starting to realise how valuable that is from a commercial point of view, but more particularly, taking the data, curating the data, and using it to teach smart software, to participate in research efforts, and to improve patient care. We're at a crossroads and it’s really interesting and exciting.
“We are a high quality healthcare service provider and have a wonderful patient-focussed team. We are proud to provide a vital service and we will continue to invest and improve our focus on consistently delivering high quality healthcare to every patient, every time. That's consistent with who we are and what our vision is.”