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Radiology leaders show little confidence in future growth of profession

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | June 08, 2020
U.S. radiology leaders have little confidence in the growth of their profession for the foreseeable future as a result of COVID-19.
Radiology administrators and imaging center directors have very low confidence in the future of radiology, according to the second-quarter results of the Medical Imaging Confidence Index (MICI).

Cuts in imaging volumes as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have strained revenue streams for many practices, forcing some sites into what they call “survival mode.” The MICI, a collaboration between The MarkeTech Group and AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management, recorded drops in confidence across all areas of its index.

“All regions have at most low confidence in growing volume and receiving adequate reimbursement,” said the authors in their quarterly report. “Excluding the South Atlantic region, all other regions have at most low confidence in access to capital for equipment and growth as a profit center. East North Central and Mountain regions have very low confidence; while the West North Central, East South Central, and Pacific regions have low confidence that internal operating and staff costs will remain constant.”

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The report included responses from 179 U.S. participants, with 13% based in the mid-Atlantic; 15% in the South Atlantic region; 6% in the East South Central region; 20% in East North Central; 16% in West North Central; 11% in West South Central; 7% in the Mountain region; and 11% in the Pacific.

Each participant rated their optimism about five topics, with scores ranging from 0 to 200. Any below 50 indicated extremely low confidence; while those from 50 to 69 were considered very low confidence; 70 to 89, low confidence; 90 to 110, neutral score; 111 to 130, high confidence; 131 to 151, very high confidence; and above 150, extremely high confidence.

A composite score of 72 was recorded for the second quarter, indicating low confidence in future business prospects and a significant drop from the first quarter score of 116 for 2020.

Administrators and directors were least optimistic about the growth of diagnostic and interventional radiology, scoring 59 in the index. A score of 65 also reflected very low confidence regarding access to capital for imaging equipment and IT needs, while a low confidence score of 76 was recorded about the prospect of their sites growing as profit centers.

Historically the lowest score in previous MICI polls, the question of whether administrators and directors were confident that they would receive adequate Medicare reimbursement was rated second highest among all scores at 80, but was still a low-confidence figure.

Confidence about internal operating and staffing costs remaining constant scored the highest at 84, but was also another low-confidence rating.

Participants, in a comments section in the report about their outlook, showed little belief that things would improve shortly.

“COVID-19 will have a distinct impact on imaging and will (has already) impacted imaging procedures and crippled our ability to even consider growth,” said one respondent. “We are, instead, in survival mode.”

Another said the impact of the virus has left hospitals in a position where they will have to make cost and staff adjustments in order to stay afloat. “The coronavirus issue will result in overspending in the nursing area of hospitals. This, coupled with the reduction in outpatient imaging, will result in not only having to compensate for other areas of the hospital but also adjust cost estimates for loss in revenue.”

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