Improving Outpatient Imaging Processes: The Unrealized Opportunity

To Rent or to Own Imaging Equipment, that is the Question

Improving Outpatient Imaging Processes: The Unrealized Opportunity

While advanced radiology technologies have rapidly evolved, the processes of delivering diagnostic imaging services to patients are still catching up. As a result, many hospitals continue to struggle to maximize their outpatient imaging opportunities. Even with all we know today about the importance of creating clear competitive advantages in this frequently shopped and fragmented service market, developing a cohesive outpatient imaging workflow eludes even the most sophisticated health operators. Perhaps more time and energy gets allocated towards technology procurement, site-builds, partnership agreements, and marketing programs? What we do know: when you table the nuances of fine-tuning an imaging program until post-launch or until they’ve become too problematic to ignore- the entire platform is placed in peril.

A lack of efficient and targeted outpatient imaging services leads to:

  • Scheduling bottlenecks that delay patient diagnosis and treatment
  • Lackluster patient satisfaction and online reputation scores
  • Payer steerage to lower-cost facilities
  • Unfavorable reimbursement rates
  • Declining physician referrals
  • Dwindling volumes and margins

Get Focused: Efficient Scheduling and Prior Authorizations

Precise scheduling and prior authorization process improvements that add at least one extra scan a day can generate significant incremental revenue on an annual basis. A non-optimized scheduling process can negatively impact patient volumes and revenue, not to mention patient experience and downstream returns. For example, inefficient outpatient programs will realize an increase in:

  • Abandoned appointments, call rates and rescheduling’s
  • Uncompleted studies
  • Staffing problems and moral issues
  • Claim denial and bad debt

The solutions aren’t always simple, but here are a few of our favorite tips that will immediately bolster your scheduling workflow:

  • Have a smooth referral process for referring providers, including a dedicated phone line for physicians to use to schedule exams.
  • Employ a dedicated scheduler tasked with shifting patients without prior authorization issues to next-day appointments to fill next day’s schedule.
  • Streamline an appointment scheduling and registration process that occurs in a single phone call to minimize patient frustration and appointment abandonment.
  • Set up calls to remind patients about information for exam preparation, what to expect and who to call with questions, 24 – 48 hours prior to their appointment.
  • Structure prior authorization staff training or secure outsourced expertise, and ensure authorizations are completed at least one day before scheduled appointments.
  • Ensure highly accurate coding to reduce claim denials.
  • Expand hours of operation to match demand and provide convenient time availability.
  • Reserve appointment slots for walk-ins and emergencies.

In today’s site-neutral and competitive imaging marketplace, outpatient centers must fine-tune each opportunity to maximize revenue. Reimbursement pressures, consumerism and marginal volume growth already create sufficient barriers to success – don’t get left behind by neglecting the processes that deliver results.

There’s a Twist

If your organization doesn’t yet have a HOPPS to site-neutral payment model or strategy – that’s another story. If you haven’t created a cohesive outpatient imaging plan, it’s time to take action.

Alliance HealthCare Radiology can help you maximize all your outpatient imaging opportunities through our comprehensive continuum of imaging services—from mobile imaging, patient scheduling and prior authorizations to physician sales and marketing services and fixed-site imaging joint ventures.

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Published: August 2019