Diagnostic Imaging Pay Continues To Drop Except Nuclear Medicine

Healthcare is one of the primary aspects that every nation needs to look after to keep the population healthy and working. The better the quality of a country’s human resources, the higher are the chances of the nation to ascend the stairs of success and prosperity. With phenomenal advancement in science and technology over the last few decades, the detection and treatment processes are now varied.

Today, diagnosing any disease is easier with the latest radiology equipment.  Be it the right detection of the disease or treatment of critical ailments, radiology is emerging as an important lateral of the healthcare domain. However, besides catering to the people’s medical needs, radiology units also need financial viability to continue their services.

Radiology is an indispensable part of the treatment processes today. However, the market conditions largely impact the functioning of the same. With more volatilities creeping into the market, people are changing their expenditure patterns drastically. This, in turn, is impacting the spending on diagnostic services as well.

Advanced technologies and machines need regular upgrade and maintenance. The same is possible only when the medical care sector continues to earn adequately. However, the last few decades were not rosy for this sector, and the earning has gone down substantially. According to several reports, the diagnostic imaging pay is decreasing continuously for almost all the modalities.

Diagnostic Imaging Modality

The human body is an assembly of several organs. To keep up with the setup, the diagnostic imaging modalities have to be varied as well. The same imaging process cannot be effective for all the organs living in a different biological environment.  The imaging modality for the brain is different from the one for the pancreas. Here are some of the modalities that the radiology domain deals with commonly.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Ultrasound
  • Angiography
  • Computed Tomography
  • Medical radiation
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Mammography
  • Nuclear Medicine

According to the latest studies, all of these radiology laterals are experiencing a steady fall in reimbursement. This surely is not a good sign for the domain. Further reductions in the level of earning of these laterals might become dangerous for the services’ very survival.

The Study

The researchers of Brown University recently reported in JACR that the reduction of income for MRI is around $52. However, the same is even more critical at -70.5% for Bone Densitometry. All other verticals also suffered a substantial decrease leaving only the Nuclear Medicines behind.

According to the lead author Soryan Kumar and colleagues, this can result from the insurance policy changes that aim to reduce medical care spending.  The team holds three things responsible for this sudden downfall in the income levels.

Those are enhanced demand for diagnostic imaging, the current inflation rate, and healthcare policy changes. More treatment packages these days come inclusive of the radiology services. This has curbed the number of reimbursements of individual services.

The team conducted the study taking data from the year 2007 to 2019. It observed a steady fall in the level of reimbursement for almost every modality of imaging practices other than Nuclear Medicine.  CMS has a special tool called the Physician Fee Schedule Look-Up Tool. The team took the help of this one to predict and analyze the situation.

The team conducted thorough research on bone densitometry, computed tomography, CT angiography, and mammography. MRI, magnetic resonance angiography, nuclear medicine, radiography, and ultrasound were also a part of the analysis. However, the team left behind the laterals like PET/CT due to the unavailability of enough data.

Of these laterals, MRI suffered a downfall of -64% and MRA of -54%. While CT decreased by -45%, the reduction in the level of CTA was -52.5%. Regardless of the disparities in the figures, the steady fall in every domain is easily traceable through the conclusions of the reports.

Surprisingly, the same trend was not true for Nuclear Medicines. Especially the hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scans with cholecystokinin showed a rising trend with a gross 67% increase over the years.

The team held the SGR responsible for such a drastic fall. It further cleared that the Balanced Budget Act 1997 can be another source of such a downfall. However, the only positive sign the team found was the improvement in the consumer behavior amidst this fall.

The team further declared that the fall in reimbursement is making the services more affordable for the people. Hence, in the future, with proper policies in place, the imaging industry can again go back to its past days of glory.

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