Whether you’re just launching a health startup or are well-established, here are five ways to reduce medical-imaging costs and engage your patient base by embracing new technology and practices.
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Radiology departments, which include some of the most expensive and high-tech equipment in the medical realm, are often under pressure to cut costs. But because imaging applications like x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI scans are critical in diagnosing and treating an endless array of conditions, doctors and radiologists don’t want to compromise patient safety by letting cost concerns influence their decisions on imaging.
Fortunately, there are a number of innovative cost-cutting approaches worth considering that actually improve the patient experience and ensure that he or she receives the necessary imaging services. Here are five ways to reduce radiology costs by embracing new technology and practices.
1. Streamline databases and platforms
Many medical facilities are working with a number of disparate systems and technologies that were adopted at different times — and the result is a lot of time wasted dealing with separate logins and frustrated attempts to get one system to communicate with another. This can be particularly challenging in radiology, where there are multiple pieces of equipment used for imaging, and the scans typically must be transferred to other locations for review.
Ideally, all or most of your technologies are accessible on one platform, saving on tech support costs and allowing healthcare providers and administrators to focus on patient care rather than tech support. Making interoperability a reality has become the specialty of many tech companies, which are using their expertise to save money — and headaches — for hospitals and other medical centers looking to streamline their cumbersome systems.
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2. Implement AI programs that help radiologists work more efficiently
Artificial intelligence alone can’t replace the experienced eye of a radiologist, whose specialized knowledge is vital when interpreting image results. However, AI has demonstrated the ability to optimize radiology workflows by doing an initial scan of images, organizing them and flagging ones that may be of higher priority.
For example, French startup Avicenna.ai has developed a triage system for emergency radiology to reduce the radiologist’s workload. As AI and deep learning become more advanced, this is an exciting space for innovative new companies offering tools that can help radiologists do their jobs better and faster.
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3. Eliminate the use of CDs for transferring images
Remember, years ago, when we used to save files on CDs and manually move them from one computer to another? The advent of broadband internet, WiFi and cloud computing made CDs largely obsolete as most of us got used to SaaS applications. But try telling that to the average radiology department. Many are still buying stacks of blank CDs, devoting precious staff time to burning images onto these CDs and then paying to ship these to patients or other clinicians who receive them days later. Hospitals can still spend as much as $8 to $15 per CD and as much as $100,000 on courier costs. The #DitchtheDisk movement created this online calculator for facilities to see just how much money goes into using CDs.
Implementing a cloud-based platform makes it easy to upload, transfer and share images with a few clicks. Utilizing a secure, HIPAA-compliant cloud platform means the radiology department can rest assured that the patient’s information will remain safe and private.
4. Reduce redundant imaging
All too often, a patient gets the same area scanned again unnecessarily simply because the previous image wasn’t readily accessible. This is referred to as redundant imaging, and the redundancy is not only an unproductive use of both the patient and imaging tech’s time, but it can also be quite costly — especially if it is a CT or an MRI scan that is being repeated.
The best solution to this expensive problem is ensuring that a patient’s images are available through a complete electronic health record and that these images can be transferred digitally between providers in the cloud. This makes it less likely that recent images will get lost in the shuffle when a patient moves to a new location or sees a new doctor.
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5. Introduce a radiology dashboard
A recent case study showed that North Carolina’s Duke Primary Care system was able to cut imaging costs by more than $3 million in just one year by utilizing a radiology dashboard that features quality and patient-satisfaction metrics. Providers in the Duke system receive the dashboard each month, and it seems that the ability to view peer-comparison data and imaging use leads to a significant drop in imaging costs. This low-tech, data-sharing approach is an easy way to get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to introducing radiology cost-saving measures.