How Will Medical Imaging Spending Decreases Impact Your Organization?


Medical Imaging CostsThe road ahead for radiology practices is going to continue to be challenging. The newly formed Harvey L. Neiman Health Care Policy Institute released its first report on October 23, 2012 entitled, “Medical Imaging: Is the Growth Boom Over?” The report showed that there was a five percent (5%) decrease in the use of medical imaging since 2006, coupled with an alarming 21 percent reduction in spending.

Some of the primary reasons for the drop in medical imaging during that time frame:

  • Seven Medicare funding cuts for medical imaging, totaling 6 billion dollars.
  • Radiation awareness and education programs, such as Image Gently and Image Wisely, have made providers aware of opportunities to reduce radiation from imaging exams.
  • An increase in the use of electronic health records (EHRs) nationwide, which minimizes repeat medical imaging exams.
  • Increased use of evidence-based guidelines, leading to electronic physician order entry systems ensuring patients get the right scan for the right indication and avoid superfluous scans.

More Drops in Radiology Reimbursement

According to the 2010 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report, medical imaging is the slowest growing of all physician services among the privately insured. Richard Duszak, MD, CEO and senior research fellow of the Neiman institute, reinforced this reality when he said that the perception of medical imaging as a primary driver of healthcare costs is a myth.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are calling for another large drop in radiology reimbursement rates in 2013. So, in the face of these facts, what can an organization do to maintain a competitive edge?

Technology Can Save Downstream Costs

Many specialists are finding that turning to technology can reduce costs.

Brian Baker, President at Regents Health Resources Inc., a healthcare consulting firm, said that while implementing an integrated health information system impacts the cost of operations, the long-term benefits can be worth the effort.

More specifically, “Dashboards with recent data can show you your salaries, non-salaried expenses, revenue, full-time equivalent efficiency and other important measures. Once you have a handle on that data, you can drill down and reduce expenses,” asserts Jeffrey Palmucci, CRA, director of radiology at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. “Used as intended, voice recognition technology can reduce expenses. Many organizations formerly used expensive in-house or even off-site transcriptionists. Software has allowed us to eliminate them,” he added.

How has medical imaging spending changed in your organization?  I encourage you to share your feedback via a comment below.

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