Hand Wringing Is Not a Solution
I was impressed by the crowd. Not just the fact that there were over 100 imaging center executives, radiologists and administrators gathered, but with the fact that they all came to the RCG Healthcare symposium in Las Vegas at the end of March to get serious about their future. There was not a hand wringer in the group and those that I talked to indicated that they fully intended to be among the winners in a post-DRA imaging world. These semi-annual symposia that RCG, Imaging Economics magazine, Medical Imaging, Practice Builders and the Institute co-sponsor have over the past few years drawn attendees from various segments of the outpatient imaging spectrum, but there was a certain urgency about this most recent event, characterized by very active participation and true representation of today’s imaging leaders. These people were ready to make something happen. As Giles Boland, MD, vice chairman, department of radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, RCG executive, and course leader said at the outset, even the faculty came to learn from all of that brain power and creativity assembled for the two-day meeting. And learn we certainly did. Lectures, roundtables, and panels featured some of the most interesting practices in use today. Among those presenting in addition to Dr Boland, were Sonny Patidar, MD, course director; myself; Debi Brannan, business development director, Austin Radiological Association, Austin; John Couris, VP, Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Tampa, Fla; Laurie Slater, MBA, business development, Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Tampa, Fla; and Jennifer A. Johnson, Med, MBA, finance manager, Radiology Associates, Boston. The symposium is structured in such a way that whether attendees are looking to start an imaging center or to grow their existing centers, the content guides them through all of the success elements necessary for thriving in a hyper-competitive environment. What did I learn? Among other things of value, I learned from attendees that there are several new and innovative ways in which to build incentive programs for marketing representatives. Whether you call your practice rep a marketing person, sales person, physician liaison, customer service rep, or community relations member, the job is the same. It is to build scan volume through the complex application of each segment of the marketing mix to attract referrals. At its core, this is fundamentally a sales position and those who are attracted to it are equally attracted to the types of incentives and rewards that come with sales-type positions. If any of you would like to discuss some of these, let me know in an email and I will follow up with what I have learned from best practices. Back to the part about hand wringing. Not surprisingly, the competitive world of business is divided into optimists and pessimists, just as in any other human endeavor. The optimists are those who look for ways to educate themselves and in this way become better competitors. The pessimists insist that nothing lies ahead for imaging centers except a litany of woes. Therefore, why bother with new ideas and endeavors, better just to milk it while they can. Here are a couple of reasons for optimism, which are also indicative of why the US Congress will find little sympathy for the hand wringers. In its most recent report, Delta Physician Placement’s Physician Recruiting Standard for 2006 indicates that radiology is number two in the top twenty physician specialties in terms of starting salaries ($407K) across the U.S., right behind neurosurgery. At the bottom of the list of 20? Family practice physicians ($146K). Next, even with the DRA, the overall number of imaging studies in the US is likely to double in the next eight years. A lucrative career in an incredibly lucrative marketplace and an opportunity to learn about how to be among those who will lead the profession through these interesting but complex waters—all in all it is an optimist’s dream. The smart ones will figure out how to succeed in spite of the new reimbursement roadblock. Whether you attend this particular symposium, or those sponsored by RBMA, ACR, RSNA, AHRA, or Educational Symposia, attend something. Get out there and become a part of the solution. Another good organization, NCQDIS, is working hard on behalf of the profession to get something done in Washington, DC, and it is an organization also designed to educate and move the industry forward. Get involved with NCQDIS as it prepares for its annual meeting in DC in early June. I welcome your response and would love to hear from you about your particular success story in this fascinating business of ours. Email me at ckp@imagingbiz.com.