4 steps for running a profitable radiology practice

Developing competent coders and ensuring that radiologists follow best practices when it comes to documentation are just some of the steps radiology managers can take to ensure they'll be running a profitable radiology practice, according to Jeff Majchrzak, vice president of radiology services at Panacea Healthcare Solutions in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

In a recent article in Advance for Imaging & Radiation Oncology, Majchrzak and other radiology and healthcare executives described some of the strategies radiology managers should consider in areas affecting profitability, including reimbursement, equipment acquisition, and staffing.

Majchrzak said the first step a department should take as part of its reimbursement strategy is to hire a competent, compliant radiology revenue team, particularly coders who understand the current practices and procedures performed in the radiology department. It's critical that radiologists are educated regarding documentation, Majchrzak said, adding that this should include best practices such as "if it's not documented, it was not done," and that documentation can substantiate a claim during an audit.

With regard to equipment acquisition, considering the high cost of new devices such as multi-slice CT scanners, it's important to monitor expenses and maximize five- and 10-year strategic plans through constant examination so that changes and corrections can be made, if necessary, according to Kay McCormack, manager of the diagnostic imaging department at Hackettstown Regional Medical Center in New Jersey.

As for staffing, it's important to make sure that managers hire the right staff from the outset, said Pamela Atwood, president of Atwood Associates, a healthcare executive search company. A bad hire, she said, can leave radiology staffs undermanned and underperforming.

Meanwhile, temporary hires can help cut costs in situations when the workflow doesn't justify the hiring of a full-time employee, said Gerrit Salinas, director of Snelling Medical Staffing. In addition, he said, hiring a temporary person with the intention of turning that person into a full-time staffer after a given period of time can save money if, in the end, the employee doesn't work out.

In an article published last month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, Dieter Enzmann, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Donald Schorner, M.D., of Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Ariz., said that in order to best position themselves competitively, radiology practices need to define the dominant value propositions that support their business models.

According to Enzmann and Schorner, there are three main value propositions: the low-cost provider, the product leader, and the customer intimacy models.

"Each ... has been a valid market position," Enzmann and Schorner said, "but each demands specific capabilities and trade-offs."

To learn more:
- read the article in Advance for Imaging & Radiation Oncology

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