Muroff to AHRA Attendees: Corporatization, Alternative Payment Models Threaten Radiologists' Future

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In addition to eight trends currently affecting radiology practice, physicians can expect to encounter four “truly scary” trends over the next few years, says Lawrence Muroff, MD, CEO and president of Imaging Consultants in Tampa, Florida, and clinical professor of radiology the University of Florida and University of South Florida Colleges of Medicine. Muroff issued this warning as part of a presentation at the 39th Annual Meeting and Exposition of AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management, held last week in Grapevine, Texas.

Commoditization, Muroff predicts, is bound to be among what he considers “the unholy four” trends; he believes that if some of the most prominent radiologists in the country read specialty studies for $35 to $40 per final read, the average radiologist will be unable to charge more for the same service. He claims a related trend, the outsourcing of imaging services, teaches hospital administrators and referring physicians that “relationships don't matter” because “any study can be read by anyone in any place at any time.”

Corporatization, too, is among the ranks of the “unholy four”, Muroff states. He questions what, if 75% of radiology in Australia is controlled by three or four corporations, is prevent the same occurrence in the U.S., adding that "previous [corporatization] failures are not insurance against future, more successful efforts."

Rounding out the list of “truly scary” trends are the advent of mini-clinics and the emergence of alternative payment models. Many drug store chains and pharmacies have opened mini-clinics, Muroff notes, and at least one Walmart store provides basic x-ray services. Any downward impact on reimbursement sparked by the likes of Walmart, Muroff insists, will eventually reach the hospital setting, resulting in decreased availability of new and/or upgraded equipment and less ability to hire new or additional personnel.

As for alternative payment models, Muroff says hospitals will, In the near future, become more aggressive in pressuring their radiology groups to become employees. “Many radiologists will willingly agree,” he concludes. “Health care theorists are pushing hard the concept of professional payment bundling.”