Like other areas of medicine, the medical imaging field is facing challenges as a result of structural changes in the industry. Consolidation and compression are driving margins lower and many medical imaging practices are finding the only way to survive is by joining forces and subsequently, cutting costs by outsourcing their medical imaging billing and coding.

This trend is being exacerbated by teleradiation which provides a low cost alternative to brick and mortar based practices. Because of their economies of scale, larger well positioned hospitals will adapt and take advantage of the market. Their size and relative buying power allow them to operate more cost effectively than smaller facilities and maintain margin while charging less for their services.

Smaller medical imaging practitioners may try to offset lower margins with increases in patient care volume however, price sensitive insurers will likely curtail this strategy by implementing stricter prior authorization rules and lower reimbursements. If smaller practices want to survive in their current form they will need to focus on cost and one area they will analyze will be their back office.

Unfortunately, this is often one of the most overlooked areas of the practice. Excessive administrative burden can greatly reduce the profitability of a medical imaging practice. Some of the most common places to find savings is administration, IT and claims processing which includes medical billing and coding, as well as accounts receivable management.

In the case of the later, one needs to consider if outsourcing this function makes sense for the medical imaging practice. Often an outsourced billing department can help reduce administrative cost by as much as 15% while increasing revenues through improved revenue cycle management and processes such as accounts receivable recovery.