Special report: Imaging centers put up a fight

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | July 29, 2013
From the July 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“Before, there was such room for error — loss of paperwork, the loss of films, getting fingerprints on your films,” says Westmed’s Ruscitto.

Sometimes HIT can add more steps to workflow, however. Northern California‘s Tesar noted that physicians often request results in a variety of formats depending on their HIT set-up, so the center’s PACS is equipped to deliver responses to a wide range of requests.

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“There are some things that make life a lot easier,” says Tesar. “But even though we have efficiencies to get from the patient entering the door to getting the scan done, we still have a lot of steps along the way.”

Patient priorities

Cut budgets don’t preclude quality patient care, of course. Some imaging center goals, like dose management, may add extra items to an already crowded workflow, but are important industry developments that matter for patient safety.

St. Vincent’s began tracking dose by patient about a year and a half ago, Murtha says. Westmed is getting a software upgrade from GE that elicits a pop-up window when someone attempts to change dose.

Westmed also implemented a case management program to make sure patients are receiving the proper care, Murtha says.

“We’re an Accountable Care Organization, so we’re making sure that the patients are getting the best education they can and are getting the exams that they truly need,” she says.

With ACOs, health IT and dose management, paired with the constant specter of lower reimbursements, imaging centers look different than they did even a decade ago when the number of centers doubled between 2000 and 2008.

Tesar, who has been in the business for 20 years, says that some elements of imaging center management have in fact improved.

“People who have just entered the PET market might not believe that it’s gotten easier, but since I’ve been in it for so many years, the payment and coverage really has become much better,” she says. “It doesn’t mean that you’re going to get paid better. But I think the payers try to clarify much better what’s going to be paid for that modality.”

And while more complicated documentation and billing have been no thrill, Tesar says watching PET technology evolve has been an exciting part of her career as the modality becomes more effective and patient care improves.

“That makes our jobs really fun, and knowing that the patients are getting much better scans, and much better answers,” she says. “It’s constantly refreshing.”
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