Doctors Going Broke: How Are Medical Imaging Centers Coping?

2012-06-28
 

Medical Financial In December, a CNN report on the financial well-being of independent practices suggested that many physicians are not only losing income, they’re on the verge of bankruptcy. The story cited cardiologists, oncologists and family physicians who were drastically cutting their own salaries in hopes of keeping their doors open.

Changing Medicare reimbursement rates and other regulatory shifts were largely blamed for the economic hardships. One oncologist had relied on profits from purchasing drugs and selling them to patients, but became millions of dollars in debt once the government reduced payments to below what the oncologist had paid for them.

Some commentators said the issue was that physicians need to think like business people and understand where they’re losing money before the problems become too entrenched.

While radiology traditionally has been one of the more successful specialties, new pressures are emerging as medical imaging technology changes the way the field is practiced. There are advocates for not only using such business techniques as financial analysis, but outright marketing as well. A marketing company in Pennsylvania devised campaigns for a medical imaging practice that promoted the “personal” side of organization.

Even so, much of the marketing that now seems necessary for radiologists is to their fellow physicians. The rise of teleradiology, which allows work to be offshored to lower costs, has led to debates about the price of quality. Some suggest that radiological practices look at how they’re communicating with other physicians now that PACS has made in-person discussions unnecessary.

But the pressures on medical imaging centers for low costs come from all directions. A new consumer-focused website called ClearHealthCosts had a recent feature reporting favorably on a California company that offers a $295 MRI, below the $400 allocated by Medicare for the procedure.

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