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

News | Imaging | September 18, 2017
Mary Washington Hospital and Union Health-Union Hospital will both receive Safety FiRsT grants to implement safety...
Understanding True Patient-centered Care in Radiology
Sponsored Content | Whitepapers | Imaging | September 18, 2017
What is the true meaning of “patient-centered care”?
ASRT Donating $10,000 in Support of Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts
News | Business | September 12, 2017
September 12, 2017 — The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) announced it will donate $10,000 to the
News | Imaging | September 11, 2017
September 11, 2017 — Innovatus Imaging Corp., a newly created holding company formed by private equity firm Resilienc
DoseWise is Philips' automated dose management platform

DoseWise is Philips' automated dose management platform.

Sponsored Content | Case Study | Radiation Dose Management | September 08, 2017 | By Kelly Golkin
Continuing education and training are essential in the healthcare industry. Physicians are required to earn a certain...
The GE Healthcare Signa Premier MRI was among the top radiology stories from August 2017

The GE Healthcare Signa Premier MRI was among the top radiology stories from August 2017.

Feature | Imaging | September 01, 2017 | Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Here is the list of the most popular articles and videos on the Imaging Technology News (ITN) magazine website from the...
Houston Methodist Hospital Enters Multi-Year Technology and Research Agreement With Siemens Healthineers
News | Imaging | August 17, 2017
Houston Methodist Hospital and Siemens Healthineers have entered into a multi-year agreement to bring cutting-edge...
Patient Complexity, Subspecialization Impact List Prices for Radiologists' Services
News | Business | August 15, 2017
A new study by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute finds that patient condition complexity and...
Upcoming radiology conferences, meetings and events.
News | August 14, 2017
ITN maintains a comprehensive listing of radiology specialty meetings on its website at ...
Overlay Init