When we study dramatic failures like those that bring down power lines, we usually discover multiple issues. It’s the same with imaging — numerous forces have combined to decrease profitability, including saturated markets, a more complex patient population and declining reimbursement.
In her webinar, “2014 Imaging Market Outlook,” Sruti Nataraja of The Advisory Board Company takes a comprehensive look at all the factors contributing to imaging’s current state and observes the following:
- We’re getting diminishing returns from traditional growth
- The worst is yet to come with hospital reimbursement cuts
- Imaging exams are firmly on the chopping block in risk-based payment
- Price pressures are threatening bottom lines
- Poor coordination is stunting imaging’s ability to demonstrate value
Clearly, imaging executives can do little about most of these issues. But Nataraja points out that imaging leaders can address number five by what she calls unlocking imaging’s value. She outlines four mandates for value in the new healthcare economy:
- Better align imaging strategy with institution strategy (internal alignment)
- Cultivate radiologist integration (external alignment)
- Pursue opportunities for traditional volume growth (internal growth)
- Explore frontier growth (external growth such as becoming a preferred provider for payers and a preferred partner for ACOs and medical homes)
Nataraja believes the only way to better align imaging strategy with institution strategy is to move away from fee for service, exam-growth directives, efforts to reduce direct costs, patient-satisfaction efforts and service-line operations and toward risk-based payment models, efforts to grow patient share, programs that reduce total cost of care, patient-activation efforts and collaborative care efforts. This is the way to demonstrate value beyond profitability, she says.
To achieve a better aligned strategy, imaging executives must fully understand the institution’s goals and thoroughly communicate these goals to imaging department managers. Key personnel must be prepared to (1) demonstrate their department’s value to the institution beyond profitability and (2) leverage imaging program skills to build collaboration.
Imaging departments must also work to better align with care partners such as referring physicians, hospital (or ACO) leadership and payers. Nataraja says the goal is to be able to collaborate on executing care partners’ current and future strategic priorities as they relate to imaging.
Finally, Nataraja outlines what she calls The New Growth Equation:
Appropriate Utilization + Strategic Pricing + Purchaser Marketing = Secure Long-Term Growth
Imaging programs that are able to demonstrate their appropriate utilization, coupled with competitive pricing and effective marketing of their value to purchasers, will be able to secure growth in the long run. While certainly more complex, and requiring some tough decisions, this imaging strategy is a more secure way to grow long-term.
To learn more about imaging strategies that support growth, register to download the recorded webinar, 2014 Imaging Market Outlook.