Despite a host of technological advances, recent cuts in Medicare reimbursement and greater scrutiny of imaging bills by private payers have placed a cloud over the radiology industry, according to attendees at the 2007 Radiological Society of North America conference.
The conference, which took place Nov. 25-30 at Chicagos McCormick Place convention center, had drawn more than 27,600 participants as of Nov. 28, according to preliminary numbers posted on the RSNA Web site.
But in the face of conference organizers tabulations showing that professional attendance was up by 3% this year, the perception among many attendees was that participation was down. John Desch, Philips Medical Systems vice president of marketing and strategy for North America, said his take was that RSNA attendance was noticeably slower this year. The people here really are looking and want to do business, but the (2005) Deficit Reduction Act has really cut reimbursement and affected profit margins, and hospitals are having to look at where theyre making money, Desch said. He noted that under the Deficit Reduction Act, Medicare cut an estimated $1.2 billion in spending on outpatient imaging-service payments over the past year. The act aims to trim an additional $1.6 billion over the next four years.
Doriann Thomas, a radiologist and owner of the free-standing imaging center Capitol Radiology in Laurel, Md., echoed Deschs assessment, saying she observed fewer physicians present at the continuing education seminars this year. There seems to be less interest in purchasing equipment. ... Everyone is assessing to see if they can afford to bring in new equipment, and thats a definite result of the Deficit Reduction Act, Thomas said.
While imaging services providers seem to be struggling with financial uncertainty, healthcare IT solution companies seem to be the one area of business benefiting. Really, the bane of the DRA is our gain, said George Kovacs, director of product marketing for McKesson Corp.s Medical Imaging Group, which handles clinical and revenue-cycle management and was present at the conference. Hospitals are getting less money and doing more work, so they need us to help them get revenue thats been lost.