Image reading services: Four ways to get your exams read
Despite the increasing number of radiologists, it often becomes challenging for diagnostic imaging businesses to find a reading doctor, especially in some rare subspecialties or particular states. This article will discuss the ways to get your images read, as well as their pros and cons.
Generally, imaging exams are read by either in-house or outsourced radiologists. Having reviewed more than 300 diagnostic imaging businesses, we can split the outsourced readers into independent radiologists, radiology groups, and teleradiology providers who specialize in remote exam reading.
In-house reading works best for large hospitals and healthcare centers.
Pros: All the pros, such as turnaround time, report quality and state licensure heavily depend on the doctor's personality and your managerial skills. However, keeping an in-house physician is considered a robust way to get your images interpreted. You hire a professional and choose the best match for your needs like every employer does.
Cons: Pricing. The median radiologist's wage is $420,090 that can be a deal-breaker for startups and small businesses.
Collaborating with an independent radiologist seems a better way out for smaller businesses. You can find a doctor affiliated with a big healthcare center to read your exams during the off-peak hours.
Pros: Reading fees. Working on a fee-for-the-service basis, which means reduced costs, especially if you manage to negotiate good reading fees.
Cons: Turnaround time. If you work with a radiologist who reads your images after-hours, it can be challenging to ensure the needed turnaround time. Almost certainly, after-hours reading will not work for you if you deal with STAT and ASAP cases. Anyway, you will have to monitor the exam status manually.
State licensure is another thing to monitor because licenses tend to expire.
Malpractice is also a sensitive issue for many radiologists. Probably, your reading doctor will ask you to cover it.
Image transfer. To make sure your images are delivered correctly, you want to establish a PACS connection. It is not a problem if you and your reading doctor use the same PACS system. Otherwise, you will need to purchase one that means additional expenditures.
It is possible to outsource your exams to a radiology group that does both tests and image reading. Usually, such groups have several doctors who often have licenses in many states.
Pros: Geographical coverage is essential if you operate in different states as well.
Turnaround time. Several doctors can cover your back and ensure better turnaround time.
Cons: Impossibility to track the status of your exams.
Image transfer. Such groups often have an internal PACS system to deliver images and reports. They can refuse to connect you to their platform or switch to yours.
Today, teleradiology services are gaining popularity. Technically speaking, all remote reading can be categorized as teleradiology. The difference is that these providers specialize in remote exam reading.
Geographical coverage. Today, large teleradiology services can cover all 50 states and collaborate with rare subspecialists.
IT infrastructure. Usually, teleradiologies have a robust IT infrastructure, so there are no issues with transferring images, PACS, etc. However, terms of exam transfer can differ. Some advanced teleradiology services collaborate with PACS providers and offer you a bundle that includes both image reading and PACS storage. Bundling allows you to save on software and image reading.
Affordable pricing. Reading fees can be surprisingly affordable due to the high volumes the providers deal with. Even if you are a startup and do a handful of studies, this handful will be added to the overall volume the doctor reads. Besides, the pricing can be flexible. Many teleradiology providers apply volume-based fees so that you could pay less and save more while your volumes grow.
Technical support. It is essential that teleradiology services have technical support and operations teams to troubleshoot and monitor your exam status to ensure turnaround time.
Teleradiologies differ in terms, service quality and pricing. And imaging businesses differ, too; what works for one imaging provider doesn't work for another. So, before you sign up for a service, you want to discuss the points we touched upon in this article. Also, it's a good idea to review testimonials and ask the provider for a reference list.
Today, all of the above-mentioned ways of getting imaging exams read are widely applied. However, more and more imaging providers outsource their exams (or a part of them) to teleradiology platforms due to competitive pricing, flexibility, availability of subspecialists, quality of reports, and good turnaround time.