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ACOs May Hang On To Older Imaging Machines

August 29, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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What will the coming move toward ACOs mean for radiologists? Among other things, fewer new toys.

So said Bibb Allen Jr., MD, a radiologist at Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, during an interview by ImagingBiz.com. He didn’t use the word “toys,” but he did say:

While they will no doubt support the replacement of equipment at the end of its life cycle, ACO facilities will almost certainly not go along with the idea of replacing a perfectly good piece of imaging equipment with another just because it is new.

In other words, he said: “They will want a true patient-care and business justification for acquiring a 256-slice CT scanner when the 64-slice scanner they have still functions perfectly well.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has given a big boost to accountable care organizations—networks of health-care providers that provide care to a group of patients, with reimbursements tied to the quality of care and reductions in overall costs. Starting in January, ACOs will be able to contract with Medicare.

Exactly how they’ll work remains speculative. Dr. Allen probably knows as much as anybody about their implications for radiologists. He chairs the American College of Radiology Commission on Economics and has written about ACOs for the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

His take: Brace yourself. For example:

We will see a major move from our present focus on productivity tied to the number of exams we have interpreted during a given time period.

Instead, he said, ACOs will focus on patient outcomes. “Obviously, though, that is more difficult with radiology,” he said, “because it isn’t imaging itself that determines outcomes. Rather, how the patient fares hinges on all of the other treatments that come after the radiologic study.”

Check out the ImagingBiz.com interview; it’s thought-provoking reading. As Dr. Allen sums up: “Nothing is yet written in stone——but ACOs and their effect on the radiology community are areas that merit a close watch.”

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We think our Facebook page also merits a close watch. Check it out and see.

Related seminar: Computed Body Tomography: The Cutting Edge

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