Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant

Greg Freiherr has reported on developments in radiology since 1983. He runs the consulting service, The Freiherr Group.

Blog | Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant | January 10, 2013

Exploding Imaging Volume Could Taint Radiology

Increasing procedure volume, brought on by pending healthcare reforms, may put a premium on software that can automate and streamline workflow. (Synapse RIS 6.2 courtesy of FujiFilm Medical Systems)

The radiology community may be in for a shock soon. Regents Health Resources, a national consulting firm specializing in medical imaging business intelligence, suggests that the volume of imaging exams is about to explode.

Regents estimates that new coverage under healthcare reform will lead providers to perform millions more exams than in years past. Californians alone could receive almost 9 million additional exams. Across the country, medical imaging procedures are forecast to rise 13.6 percent, which translates into 61 million more procedures annually.

The fallout is easy to predict. If procedure volumes rise, as Regents predicts, it would quickly absorb the over-capacity that now exists in some imaging operations. This would put a premium on efficient patient handling and, inevitably, lead facilities to extend their hours of service to handle the increased load, as managers plan drastic changes in technologies and staff management as longer term fixes.

Likely to be put in place will be IT solutions that help providers handle rising volume, as well as machines optimized for throughput. The very practice of medical imaging is likely to change. MR suites, for example, may cut down on the number of sequences they run in order to shorten exams, focusing on sequences that produce the most diagnostic data in the shortest time.

Meanwhile, look for a lot of angry chest pounding from budgeteers who didn’t see this coming. Savings from imaging reimbursement cuts that were mandated by the Deficit Reduction Act and took effect five years ago will be vastly outweighed by the increased volume of new exams. Regents forecasts that additional procedures will add $4 billion to Medicare and Medicaid expenses in just the six states hit hardest by the expected surge in demand — California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

The real risk to radiology, however, will come from short-term answers inappropriately applied by referring physicians who order the wrong exams and the docs who do their own imaging. Low-cost substitutes may be wedged into places where higher cost, premium performance technologies belong. Look for ultrasounds and radiographs to be performed when CT and MRI would ordinarily be used. Misdiagnoses and substandard care in such cases could smear medical imaging. 

To date organized radiology has failed to get across to the general public the value that imaging brings to patient management. In the months and years ahead, we need to find a way to do so or the imaging community could be irreparably harmed.

Related Content

Sponsored Content | Videos | Printers | September 19, 2016
See how Carestream's exclusive Web Portal and personalized dashboard can give users peace of mind.
RAD-AID, Hybrid Airship, Straightline Aviation, humanitarian aid, radiology services
News | Imaging | September 13, 2016
September 13, 2016 — Straightline Aviation signed a memorandum of understanding with RAD-AID to launch a humanitarian
National Cancer Institute, NCI, Cancer Moonshot goals, scientific road map
News | Radiation Therapy | September 12, 2016
National Cancer Institute (NCI) Acting Director Douglas Lowy, M.D., accepted the recommendations of a Blue Ribbon Panel...
PET/CT

There is a growing focus on early diagnosis and prevention. Here, PET/CT imaging is used to look inside the stress center of the brain.

Feature | Imaging | September 07, 2016 | By Kirill Shalyaev, Ph.D.
Advanced imaging and hybrid modalities, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron...
Feature | Radiation Dose Management | September 07, 2016 | By Jeff Zagoudis
For all the benefits of medical diagnostic imaging, radiation exposure to both the patient and the operator remains a...
chemotherapy, radiation therapy

Epsilon’s EchoInsight software is used to help evaluate cardiotoxcity due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Feature | Radiation Oncology | September 07, 2016 | By Dave Fornell
Cardio-oncology is an emerging field that combines the expertise of both cardiology and oncology to assess and treat...
Mayfair Diagnostics, Calgary Alberta Canada, medical imaging clinic of the future

The clinic host and guide welcome patients at eye level, checking them in and ensuring their entire visit is seamless. The Patient Lounge, designed to be more of a lounge than a waiting room, features Wi-Fi and charging stations, refreshments and calming elements, such as dimmed lighting, soothing music and comfortable furniture. Image courtesy of Mayfair Diagnostics.

News | Business | September 02, 2016
Mayfair Diagnostics, a medical imaging clinic in Calgary, Alberta, is revealing its newest medical imaging clinic in...
Zika virus, imaging zika, CT scans of Zika, MRI scans of zika, radiology of Zika, medical imaging of zika

The fear of Zika virus spreading in the United States and what radiologists need to look for was the biggest driver of reader interest, as seen in August's No. 1 article below. This MRI of a 26-week-old neonate with Zika shows septation in the ventricle and other issues caused by the virus. 

Feature | September 01, 2016
Here is the list of the top 15 most popular pieces of content on the Imaging Technology News (ITN) magazine website...
GE Healthcare, Mission Health, innovation collaboration, outcomes-based agreement, imaging, business
News | Business | August 30, 2016
August 30, 2016 — Mission Health and GE Healthcare announced a novel, 10-year...
Zika virus, imaging zika, CT scans of Zika, MRI scans of zika, radiology of Zika, medical imaging of zika

A prenatal computed tomography (CT) 3-D reconstruction of fetus with Zika virus. To access all Zika radiology images related to the RSNA article go to http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/full/10.1148/radiol.2016161584

Feature | Neuro Imaging | August 26, 2016
The Radiological Society of North American (RSNA) journal Radiology has published a special report, detailing the...
Overlay Init