The use of outside teleradiology services by radiology groups isn’t a new concept; however, as healthcare continues to evolve, it is essential for groups to take the time to determine what challenges they want to address or service enhancements they want to provide through a teleradiology partnership. Knowing this, it then becomes easier to ask the right questions and find the best fit when evaluating potential teleradiology partners.
For the past seven years, we have worked with more than 300 facilities across the country to provide fast, accurate teleradiology services. Based on our experience, here are the top five things to consider when hiring a teleradiology partner.
One of the first issues to address is quality standards. Teleradiologists should have the same quality standard as the client radiology group, especially when providing a final report. Before partnering with a teleradiology service, the radiology group should have access to the qualifications of each of the physicians. We’d recommend you go one step further and ask for a sample set of reports from the service to assess the quality of the work and ensure their capability of conforming to your group’s report standards.
Another method for assessing the quality of a teleradiology service is analyzing the turnaround time, client retention and discrepancy rates. (If these numbers aren’t readily available, that says something in and of itself.) In an effort to be completely transparent with our clients (and for internal quality assessment), Direct Radiology posts our performance metrics online every quarter. Our discrepancy rate consistently remains near 0.10 percent and we continually outperform competitors with our turnaround times.
When evaluating a teleradiology service for preliminary or final reports, it’s increasingly important to consider what infrastructure they have in place to help ensure their reports can be accurately and effectively billed. You need to validate that your teleradiology partner takes it upon themselves to always remain up-to-date with everchanging reporting requirements and payment regulations to ensure effective and efficient billing for their reports. At Direct Radiology, we make it our job to stay on top of these industry trends and see it as part of our service to have thoughtful dialogues with our clients about these shifts.
The costs associated with credentialing and onboarding remote physicians certainly add up, so it is important to consider the size of the teleradiologist panel needed to provide coverage. There are certainly other “costs” that also come into play if you end up hiring a service that isn’t a good fit for your organization.
For example, it doesn’t make sense for a group with a staff of 10-15 radiologists to hire a teleradiology service that wants to credential 50 radiologists. In addition to the large monetary cost in credentialing such a large number of physicians, this can also be overwhelming for your medical staff office creating resistance and delays in onboarding your new teleradiology service. Finally, large numbers of new providers can hinder the development of familiarity with the new radiologists necessary to deliver a coverage solution supported throughout the hospital. Aside from the total number of teleradiologists, also consider a teleradiology group’s turnover rate which can hint at underlying problems within their organization. A revolving door of new names won’t inspire confidence from your ER and surgeon colleagues; it will only tax your medical staff office even more with additional credentialing work each time.
The above considerations are why we work so hard up front to really understand and clearly define our partners’ needs. Our process allows us to come up with an optimal panel of radiologists to appropriately cover all the hours and services needed while always mindful of keeping the group small and stable enough to establish a relationship and comfort level with the physicians and staff throughout your organization. We recognize the importance of a low turnover rate for our radiologists and the difference this makes for our clients’ through our consistent high quality and service delivery.
It’s crucial to choose a teleradiology service with the expertise needed to navigate our current complex healthcare landscape. Without an experienced licensing, credentialing and enrollment department it’s impossible to keep up with the continually evolving federal and state regulations. With Medicare patients, for example, a radiology practice that uses offsite final reporting will have to split the technical component (sent to the locality where the center is located) from the professional component (sent to the location where the radiologist performs the reading).
We’re extremely fortunate to work with Leah McClain, our Director of Operations, who has been navigating this system for more than a decade. She brings her expertise to every one of our clients to ensure the entire process is executed correctly, efficiently, and adheres to the latest billing and licensure regulations for each state.
Technology in our field is continually evolving and improving and the right teleradiology partner must always remain up to date and proactive in using the best technology available.
In addition to having a dedicated teleradiology RIS/PACS system with a 99.99 percent uptime record housed on multiple servers in geographically secure data centers, we’re always looking to automate workflow processes and make life easier for our clients. This includes offering the most advanced teleradiology viewing and reporting technology, automated and customized MIPS compliant reports and flexible HIPAA-compliant report delivery options. Two years ago, we launched our automation intelligence software to enhance workflow, including Automated Query Retrieve, Monitoring and Automated Uptime, and Reverse DICOM Report Delivery and have remained diligent in improving upon these advancements since their initial launch. Our current and upcoming technology enhancements are developed specifically to help address pain points that radiologists, technicians, and clinicians experience each day.
At the end of the day, the process of hiring a teleradiology partner should be collaborative, transparent, communicative and clearly outline solutions to the specific challenges and long-term goals of your individual practice. In today’s competitive landscape, you don’t need to settle for anything less than a rewarding partnership that enhances your service through the delivery of outstanding patient care.