With no end in sight of the pandemic, some radiology clinics need to rethink their practices to better their revenue cycle management and improve their services to stay afloat.
COVID-19 has far-reaching effects more than anyone ever expected. A report, conducted by lead author Richard Sharpe Jr., MD, MBA, a radiologist with the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues about the impact of COVID-19 on radiology, stated, “Some groups may prove unable to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially fueling trends either toward consolidation into larger radiology groups or toward increased employment by hospitals.”
In the first six months of the pandemic, records show a steady decrease in the revenues of many radiology practices. For some, the percentage of this decline reached up to 80%. Most affected by this situation are the smaller private practices whose revenues are dependent on examination interpretation.
Some cost-cutting measures were already adopted by others in the industry, including salary diminution, time off, and reduction of benefits. While these actions worked to keep practices afloat, experts do not consider this viable solution in the long term. They predict that smaller practices will be likely consolidated with larger groups that offer a broader practice model.
The industry remains hopeful as lockdowns are lifted, and communities are reopened, but just like for any other industry, a consistent decrease in revenue remains imminent for some.
According to an Urban Institute estimate, about 10 million people will lose their healthcare coverage from a COVID-19-related job loss. People who previously relied on employer-sponsored health cards are projected to switch to healthcare coverage through other family members as dependent or enroll in Medicaid. Radiology practices will most likely see a rise in Medicaid and self-paying patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to batter a lot of industries. Those who cannot transform and reinvent themselves are at a higher risk of losing the battle.
For radiology practices, one point must be highlighted: Patient care is a top priority. Practitioners must deliver client-focused patient care and ensure hassle-free visits to attract more self-paying patients. An over-all pleasant medical procedure will boost the confidence of patients in smaller radiology practices. Hiring highly-qualified staff also guarantees the quality of healthcare provided.
Another highly suggested way for radiology practices to survive is to adopt new technologies and better processes to offset lost revenue opportunities. Investing in technology, streamlining workforces, improving bill cycles are a great start.
Getting a partner to optimize billing and introduce automation is a thing to consider as well. Howard Pingston, Regional VP of Business Development in Radiology with Zotec Partners, stated that “Radiology groups will not only face an increase in bad debt but also potentially an 8 to 11 percent reduction in reimbursement in 2021, depending on the CMS final ruling. Now more than ever, radiology practices need an RCM partner that is truly equipped to help them identify revenue opportunities and provide full transparency throughout the process in order to weather this storm in the near term and succeed in the long term.”
The availability of convenient payment options is also a plus factor. Online payment and special discounts are also appreciated by people who are struggling in this time of pandemic and economic recession.
The answer to the problem faced by radiology practices requires a multi-pronged approach. It is a combination of technological, financial, and personal solutions.
COVID-19 is a difficult enemy that everyone wants to get rid of. While the battle is far from over, it pays to prepare and soldier on constantly.