In the same way that the consumer industry turns to marketing and public relations to combat industry challenges and vie with competition for consumer spotlight, the healthcare industry uses marketing to attract new patients.  Healthcare reform and tendencies towards healthcare transparency in addition to Medicare changes in regards to reimbursement have created a unique challenge for providers, but have influenced radiologists in more ways than one. Of course, providers can’t compete like Macs and PCs can, but think of independent radiologists as a Mac with more personalized settings, creative and unique methods and less stress.

The issues radiologists face on a daily basis include overutilization for services as a result of other specialists taking advantage of self-referral capabilities, decreased reimbursement from Medicare and the commoditization of diagnostic imaging due to vast pricing disparities’ and the misconception that patients cannot afford quality care.  These challenges of course have led to decreased confidence among radiologists and desperate attempts to stay afloat.  Some in the industry believe that the only solution is to join an Accountable Care Organization or to be bought out by a hospital, succumbing to the pressures of change without any effort to transform the way they do business.  Through a series of solutions to improve performance, manage change and find success, efforts can be made to bring practices into the future of healthcare by being proactive and positioning themselves for success.

The issue of over-utilization in reference to diagnostic imaging procedures in our country would be eliminated if self-referral patterns were less prominent.  The solution is for radiologists to focus on marketing the strengths of patients going to independent outpatient imaging facilities over other options that are unable to focus on just radiology. These strengths are accreditations, on-site radiologists, more intricate and specialized capabilities, personalized service and affordable pricing for patients.  Through physician outreach and networking with specialists and general care providers, radiologists can also show referring physicians the multitude of benefits of working together.  Incorporating a marketing professional who aims to build referral relations and new patient volume can also help rebrand the outlook of your whole practice.

No practice can truly combat decreased reimbursement, but they can take steps to make sure that there are as few mistakes as possible and expedite the collections process.  By having a well-equipped billing and coding department, practices can capitalize on time and money spent.  By maintaining control by recruiting the help of professionals, your practice can focus on the important aspects of care.

Radiologists, all healthcare providers in fact, are in the industry to provide care to those in need, which is why the commoditization of care is every provider’s worst nightmare.  The solution is price transparency in healthcare.  By being a resource to patients and providing them with facts on their procedures and giving clear invoices and pricing up front will show patients that they can in fact receive the care they need at costs they can afford.  Of course, transparency will only be affective when melded with proof of quality, so if all providers hold their practices to a standard of excellence, patients will be able to truly see the disparities in the healthcare pricing industry.  Creating strategies to capitalize on this price-sensitive patient market is crucial to staying afloat in the tragic healthcare economy we find ourselves in.

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