Thee are many business challenges in imaging centers that need to be tackled. These include dealing with reduced reimbursements, much greater competition and “softer” volume because of a much weaker market for these services than in the past, the need to increase patient satisfaction efforts to stay competitive, getting funding for large capital purchases (including the newest technology) and efficient and code relevant radiology billing. These are described in more detail below.
While reimbursement per image or exam has been declining for some time, imaging volume has been increasing to help offset the losses. But in the last 12-18 months, in particular, volume is not increasing for most imaging centers while reimbursement continues to fall. Raising prices, offering different services, or reducing the cost of the existing service provided (through cost cutting or the use of better technology perhaps) are options but this remains a significant challenge to be addressed.
Greater competition and “softer” volume
Many imaging centers are marketing their services much more forcefully than before,in the attempt to offset reimbursement losses and to stand out against their local competitors. Not only does this marketing try to beat competition but highlights and promotes new, different, better services or a flexibility that a competitor may not have, such as scheduling inpatient exams between midnight and 6am for example. In the end, all of this marketing effort aims to build volume back to where it was a few years ago.
Increasing patient satisfaction
Better patient engagement and satisfaction can make a huge difference to an imaging center’s success. This means that imaging centers/radiology practices have to rethink the way in which they engage with their patients, whether they’re developing patient appointment reminder systems, dealing with patients in more relationship centered ways when they are face-to-face or coming up with better systems for delivering test results. All of this entails that facility staff will need to evolve greater customer service skills at all levels.
Operational /Process efficiency and effectiveness
Radiology is a much more complex environment than it once was with CAT scans (computerized axial tomography and angiography), MRI’s (and MRA’s), Mammography, Bone scans, thyroid scans, thallium cardiac stress tests, PET scan imaging, ultrasounds and plain x-rays. This means that processes for assessment, diagnosis, treatment and other service delivery can become very convoluted. As a result, imaging centers need to ensure that their testing/scanning and scheduling processes are as efficient and effective as possible (and that expensive capital equipment is wisely purchased or leased and used) so that they do not contain waste and cost that could be readily saved with a little process redesign. One example area is improved coding and billing processes-not to mention the smooth use of ICD-10 standards.
Building better business relationships with doctors as customers
Like laboratories, the complexity of radiology as a profession (and the technology deployed by it) has increased significantly in recent years and primary care physicians and clinicians of all kinds often need more assistance in test interpretation. Imaging center professionals should therefore develop their professional relationships with clinicians who order imaging tests of all kinds and serve as trusted advisors. This means that relationship skills will need to be high.
Despite the challenges at many levels, there is still a reasonable demand for imaging center and radiology servicesand increasingly for specialist services such as breast imaging, neuro-radiology, tele-radiology, chest imaging, and MRI specialists. Imaging center directors therefore have to find ways to sell these services more while demand for other services declines and lower reimbursement threaten revenue. RX4 has experienced all of these imagining centerbusiness challenges in many different healthcare environments and can provide considerable insight and options where the knowledge is limited or does not exist internally.