Pros & Cons of Hospital-based vs. Freestanding Medical Imaging Services


Pros & Cons of Medical ImagingAt Massachusetts General Hospital, their medical imaging department employs more than 100 board-certified radiologists and has earned distinction for the specialized expertise these physicians hold in specific clinical areas.

Their website states that every scan is interpreted by a radiologist with specialty training in the area of the body being studied. Specialists are capable of seeing and understanding subtleties due to their advanced training and singular focus. The expertise of their radiologists translates to more accurate interpretations—and clearer answers for patients and their physicians. (Source)

Outpatient Services Provider Reduces Patient’s Imaging Costs

Elsewhere in New England, a freestanding outpatient medical imaging service provider, American Medical Imaging in New Hampshire, states on their website, “We know medical imaging and how to make it work better for the comfort and convenience of patients and their healthcare providers.”

They developed their brand of a unique freestanding outpatient center in order to keep patient costs down. “Without the high overhead of hospital-based imaging, our talented and professional staff are able to deliver all the advantages of High-Field Performance Open MRI at approximately one-third the cost of traditional Closed Tube-type MRI procedures. This means lower costs to the patient, as well as lower workers compensation and other insurance costs to employers.” (Source: Company Website)

There is support for their claim of lower pricing. Dollar-for-dollar, private practice radiologists charge less per procedure than hospital-based services. In a survey comparing seven procedures, Regents Health, a medical-imaging consultancy, found the hospital expense, on average per procedure, was $85.78 while the freestanding imaging center averaged $69.33. (Source)

Reimbursements & Reform Challenge Image Utilization for Both

This doesn’t represent the entire picture. The new government mandated Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) significantly reduces imaging reimbursement rates to independent radiologists. In contrast, Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (HOPPS) increased their reimbursement to hospitals. This has driven many freestanding imaging centers to either merge or be bought out by hospitals, become employees, or close their practices altogether. (Source)

However the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), born out of healthcare reform, will require cooperation and partnership between radiology groups and hospitals for referrals and to help manage image utilization. In order to receive faster and more precise treatment, it is vital for the patient to make certain that his or her provider, hospital or private practice, has the most up-to-date medical imaging equipment and software.

Does your facility have in-house medical imaging processes or do you outsource?

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