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Imaging utilization to drop more than 50% over three or four months: report

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 17, 2020
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Radiology groups should expect a dip of 50% – 70% that will last a minimum of three to four months, according to a new study out of Yale University.

Authors Dr. Howard Forman and Dr. Joseph Cavallo from the Yale School of Management say emergency policies put in place to keep people safe and expand hospital crisis capacity have led to deferrals in scanning and deterred people from seeking non-emergency medical services.

The two assert that for radiologists, this recession will be like no other due to the combination of economic instability and the need to restrict the amount of imaging available, resulting in short-term and permanent changes to the profession in the long-run.
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Here are three key takeaways of their assessment:

Outpatient imaging will be hit hardest
Outpatient imaging has declined by more than 70%, compared to 50% among emergent and inpatient scanning, and is expected to incur the greatest losses in revenue.

Restrictions in imaging, though necessary to conserve resources and reduce disease transmission, will vary in impact among practices depending on their location and the severity of the pandemic in each region. Many will face pent-up demand after the crisis from patients whose exams were deferred, and concerns for delayed diagnoses.

“Demand will be variable from region to region and may build over time, as consumer fears could initially outweigh the desire for expedient imaging,” Cavallo told HCB News. “It is our hope that urgent cases are still getting appropriate care through the remaining operational facilities within health care systems.

The recovery process
Radiology groups not yet deeply impacted by the pandemic should consider reducing working hours, temporary salary cuts, bonus suspensions, furloughs, and if necessary, layoffs to offset temporary cuts in revenue.

The impact of the pandemic on state budgets is likely to further reduce revisions in Medicaid reimbursement rates, and delays in preauthorization processing times can be expected, due to backlogs of deferred exams. Radiologists should also expect a decrease in the percentage of commercially insured patients.

“Practices should ensure they have made appropriate modifications to their workflows and established additional hygienic precautions that will allow them to operate under semi-restrictive conditions that could follow the lifting of total lockdowns,” said Cavello. “This may require longer hours and reduced staff at any given time.”

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