In Search of Best Practices: Benchmarking and Information Sharing

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I had the opportunity to be guest at the strategic planning session for the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) a few years ago. This meeting consisted of the board members of RBMA and chairs of the various committees and at one point addressed the need of data in benchmarking for radiology groups and imaging centers.

RBMA produces a wealth of information in the form of surveys, including an annual accounts receivable survey and a biannual imaging center cost survey. However, there existed an unquenched thirst for further information behind the data, and this led to the formation of information sharing groups. These groups, called Member Exchange Community Alliance (MECA), are helping managers of radiology groups and the groups themselves cope with the changes being brought on by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and other pressures, as well as seeking a “best practice” model to fit their individual situation(s).

MECA groups are composed of administrators from similar groups or imaging centers from different geographic area of the United States. One of the keys to success is they are not competing with each other and thus the ten- to twelve-person groups are more willing to openly share information. The groups sign confidentiality agreements and meet for a full day at least twice a year. The members get to know each other and serve as advisors to each other in between meetings. MECA groups meet the day before the fall RBMA conference and the day before the RBMA Summit Conference in the spring.

A lot of financial information is shared and put into a format that allows for comparison from one group to another group. The data that is calculated and shared includes the following:

Income statements in a comparable format

Revenue per full-time equivalent (FTE) radiologist

Overhead percentages for all expense categories

Procedures by modality

Revenue per procedure

Expense per procedure

Number of procedures

RVUs produced (both work RVUs and total RVUs)

Number of days worked per year per FTE radiologist

Number of hours worked per day per FTE radiologist

Number of procedures per FTE radiologists, and

Number of procedures per day worked

The data allows for comparisons to be sliced and diced in many different formats, including practice compensation, profitability per RVU, and profitability per procedure.

There is also extensive sharing on how the organizations are staffed, including the billing offices and imaging centers. The groups very often get into other topics such as lending rates, maintenance rates, nighthawk service, and their own compensation.

This type of information is hard to find. Medical Group Management Association has some compensation and productivity data, but it is based on FTE radiologist. The MECA groups have found the there is a wide variance in the number of days worked per year per FTE radiologist. This can result in the lowest compensated radiologist in terms of average salary being the highest in terms of compensation per hour worked.

The groups that have participated to date have found that this type of information creates a lot of questions about how some groups operate so much more efficiently compared to the others. The groups have discussed doing site visits so they can “see” the best practices in operation. It will be interesting to see the groups continue to share data and find new ways to become more efficient.

As imaging centers and radiologists have more and more pressure caused by revenue compression, such as the Deficit Reduction Act and cuts in Medicare and private payer contracts, it is apparent that benchmarking is a requirement. The MECA groups take benchmarking to the next level, because they generating conversations with the organization that is the better performer, allowing practice leaders to find out how they are achieving the superior results.

If you would be interested in learning more about MECA and or RBMA call 1.888.224.7262 or visit www.rbma.org