Feature: Imaging center managers deal with an array of change

por John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | July 09, 2015
From the July 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Hospitals focus to better compete with freestanding centers
Doug Wetmore, an owner at Ivy Ventures in Richmond, Virginia, also cited price transparency and price shopping as an emerging trend. Ivy works with hospitals and hospital systems across the country to improve outpatient market share – especially for imaging. Clients include Bon Secours Health System, LifePoint Hospitals, Resurrection Health Care, Tenant, and Intermountain Healthcare.

“With more patients having first-dollar responsibility, imaging has become a highly price-sensitive and commoditized service,” says Wetmore. “This is the first time I’ve seen it on this scale since I’ve been in business.” Wetmore also says that he believes the market will favor those outpatient imaging centers that best align themselves in an integrated delivery model. He explains CMS is looking for efficiency through value-based purchasing, which is unfamiliar territory for many outpatient imaging operations. Ivy works with their clients to increase the number of scans conducted every day as imaging centers have fixed costs. “We work to really improve service to referring physicians because every extra scan drops to the bottom line,” says Wetmore.

Large practices go their own way
These are the types of strategies that Eric Worthan, CEO of Panorama Orthopedics and Spine Center in Denver, one of the largest orthopedics practices in the West, speaks of when he discusses the current state and future of imaging management. The specialty group is composed of 35 orthopedic surgeons, has three locations and operates seven digital radiology machines, one MRI with a second coming online in early 2016 and a third planned for 2017. The group does not provide CT, as Worthan said they don’t have high enough patient volume to justify the capital investment or maintain proficiency.

“We’ve been deploying our capital differently the last few years and we’re behind in terms of capturing the imaging procedures that our doctors order,” says Worthan. “We’re probably not even doing a third in-house right now. But with the addition of the new machines, I think we’ll capture 75 percent of the imaging scans our doctors order.”

For Panorama, the reasons for expanding imaging capability in the face of declining reimbursement is not so much a monetary issue, but one of providing better care to patients. “Probably the main reason the practice has grown is that we have worked hard to eliminate the fumbled hand-offs common in health care that frustrate patients and physicians and can negatively impact outcomes,” he said.

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