Providers ready for change in volatile teleradiology market

Thinking of changing your teleradiology vendor? You're not alone. Changes to the teleradiology landscape have sent up to 50 percent of some vendors' customers scrambling for a new partner, and economic pressures are pushing 22 percent of hospitals to bring their radiology reads back in-house, according to a recent report from KLAS.

And now might be just the time to make a change. The expected powerhouse of Virtual Radiologic (vRad) and NightHawk, which merged late last year, hasn't materialized, giving other vendors room to grow, improve and possibly lure away a host of disillusioned customers, KLAS researchers say.

The top-scoring national company this year is Teleradiology Services, with a nearly 90 percent satisfaction rating, followed closely by Radisphere and Virtual Radiologic. Interestingly, the top-scoring vendor was a regional player (which weren't included in the top five rankings), Rays, with a score of 92 percent.

A few notes on this year's notable performers:

  • Teleradiology Services' average turnaround time of 34 minutes helped it jump into the No. 1 spot, up from No. 3 last year. Turnaround times have become the most important criteria for providers choosing a system, according to the report. Combined with improved contracts and more knowledgeable customer service staff, TRS seems to be on top of its game, KLAS researchers say.
  • vRad/NightHawk combo has fizzled. Despite high hopes when vRad acquired NightHawk a year ago, problems with slower turnarounds, software difficulties and problems transmitting reads have sent customers running. A surprising 47 percent of NightHawk customers say they're looking for a new vendor, KLAS reports.
  • Imaging On Call (IOC), has improved turnaround times, and built new quality assurance processes to resolve problems, earning a respectable 84 percent rating from customers.
  • Rays is providing detailed reads quickly (in as little as 40 minutes, some customers say), and is impressing ED physicians with its complex analysis.
  • StatRad customers "raved" about new software that allows them to track the status of a read at any time, and turnaround times as low as 30 minutes, with some called in by phone on critical cases.
  • Radisphere is slower, but still ranks No. 2 in this year's survey. The reason: The vendor provides more specialty reads than other companies, which causes longer lag times. KLAS researchers say the company sets clear, realistic expectations early with customers, keeping their satisfaction rates at 89 percent.

One note across the board for hospitals looking to make a change: Focus on your ED department's recommendations, KLAS researchers say. ED turnarounds and ED physicians having access to radiologists after hours is essential to satisfaction with teleradiology systems.

Also, be on the lookout for teleradiology vendors creating value-added services like storage or PACS. "Some teleradiology vendors realize that they are viewed as a commodity and have begun to offer" these kinds of services, KLAS researchers report.

To learn more:
- here's the KLAS announcement
- check out Healthcare IT News' coverage
- read this Health Imaging piece