Smart Growth in a Tough Market: Texas Radiology Associates
Radiology’s business environment has changed considerably since the heyday of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when, says Paul Staveteig, MD, the equation for success was comparatively simple. “Now the environment is different,” he says. “The only way to survive in this marketplace is to be able to look at things very critically and make decisions very quickly.” Staveteig is a physician partner with Plano-based Texas Radiology Associates (texasradiology.com), also known as TRA. The 70-radiologist practice has contracts with nearly 20 hospital clients in the north Dallas area, including three large hospital chains and some physician-owned hospitals; the practice also reads for a handful of private, specialty physician groups. Three years ago, TRA began outsourcing its billing to Zotec Partners, the Indianapolis-based provider of billing and business intelligence services for radiology. Prior to contracting with Zotec, TRA worked with another third-party billing service, but the system was paper-based and unwieldy, Staveteig says: “Accountability for claims, reprocessing claims—it was really a challenge. So we went with Zotec for electronic billing.” The Next Step The short-term result was a significant improvement in billing efficiency, Staveteig says. But Zotec’s electronic billing system had more to offer the practice than more efficient claims processes. With the company’s business intelligence services, which provide data on everything from the practice’s payor mix at its different client facilities to the range of modalities from which the practice’s radiologists are reading studies, TRA is better able to evaluate potential new contracts—a critical consideration for a practice trying to grow in a competitive market. “With all of these hospitals, we can very quickly get a good idea of where there are new opportunities,” says Staveteig. “Looking at the payor mix and mix of modalities, we can come up with a reliable predictor of gross revenue for a particular project, and that helps us evaluate how best to grow our practice. We have found the predictions based on Zotec’s data to be within 5%.” The evaluation process also helps the practice anticipate a new client’s needs in terms of staffing, ensuring that TRA will provide optimal service from the start: “We recently started with a hospital in Sherman, Texas, and we were able to make staffing decisions to make that relationship work for the patients, administration and physicians there.” Empowered Decision-making The ability to make these decisions pro-actively is critical to TRA’s success in its market. “We’re in an environment that’s had a fair amount of vertical integration within the medical community,” Staveteig notes. “We are able to partner with the administrators in the hospital chains as well as our local physicians to give people what they want: timely service, accurate service, and continuous, 24/7 service. We’ve been able to grow despite some of those changes that have happened in the marketplace here.” As its billing partner, Zotec has been responsive in developing tools to address TRA’s specific needs, Staveteig says. “It’s been great partnering with them, and a lot of the tools they’ve developed were in response to issues that cropped up as we were working together,” he notes. “Each year we have something new.” Most importantly, Staveteig says, business intelligence enables TRA’s physician partners to achieve consensus on difficult decisions more efficiently and with greater confidence. Empowered by clear, real-time information and analytics, the practice’s conversations around tough decisions stay on track. “Our discussions are based on data, and that keeps us on task,” Staveteig says. “Everyone has something to add, and we take the best from everyone and then move forward.” Cat Vasko is editor of MedPracticeBiz and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.