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Ultrasound for interventional radiology can help cut costs

By Helen Titus
From the July 2017 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

Reducing costs and producing better patient outcomes don’t always go hand in hand, but that’s exactly what’s happening in interventional radiology (IR), which offers minimally invasive procedures that deliver significant benefits.

The concept behind interventional radiology is to diagnose and treat patients using less invasive techniques that eliminate or reduce the need for major surgical procedures, which offers less risk and reduced pain for patients as well as faster recovery times than surgery.

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Interventional radiology uses image-guided procedures – often using real-time ultrasound - for both diagnosis and treatment. In the past IR was primarily dedicated to making cardiovascular procedures less invasive. But, in recent years, these techniques have been applied to diverse diseases and conditions.

A Transparency Market Research report indicates the most common IR procedures include angioplasty, venous access, biopsy, fibroid embolization, stents, arteriograms and embolization. It is also used to provide tumor biopsies, which are essential for developing treatment plans and evaluating patients with multiple issues to determine which procedure is the most urgent.

IR is particularly beneficial for patients who are in frail health, or who have already undergone numerous surgeries.

Use of ultrasound not only expedites diagnosis and treatment, it simultaneously reduces the need for additional imaging procedures and related costs. And with the ultrasound image guidance available through IR, physicians can quickly assess the patient’s condition, conduct procedures in less time and help expedite patient recovery.

But developing successful IR programs poses a unique set of challenges that imaging leaders must address.

An article published by Advisory Board outlines three key trends for both growth and challenges for interventional radiology.

1. Interventional radiology services are gaining referrals from new sources.
Interventional radiologists are capturing referrals from two new areas: non-procedure-based specialists and patients. Physicians in medical oncology and pediatrics are a strong referral source for interventional radiology because they don’t offer competing services. Patients in some health care organizations can review online resources for surgical alternatives and many are electing to undergo IR procedures. In these cases, patient self-referrals can account for a significant volume of referrals.
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