Are you hiring techs? You may be the only one. Many members have reported a measurable increase in the number of technologist job applications they are receiving, although few departments seem to be hiring. An Imaging Economics article says that the current vacancy rate for technologists is 2.1% (which measures the number of vacant positions versus the total number of FTE positions). Apparently this is the lowest rate in at least seven years.
Many imaging departments were forced to make staffing shifts in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. In addition, while some hospitals were able to hold the line on staffing and avoid letting any techs go, freestanding imaging centers are cutting staff at the same time. Members in markets with several imaging centers are reporting an increase in applicants from former employees of these providers--applicants that hospital imaging departments had difficulty attracting in the past. Departments also report no longer being required to offer substantial signing bonuses and other stipends to potential candidates. With outpatient imaging market consolidation in the future and the national unemployment rate still high, we assume this trend will continue in the near term.
In a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that radiologists turned around imaging reports significantly faster following hospital implementation of a pay-for-performance program that rewarded speedy reporting. Specifically, the mean time from scan complete to signed report went from 42.7 hours to 31.6 hours in the 3 month period after implementation. The specific target of the program was reduction in the time it took staff radiologists to provide final signatures on initial reports prepared by residents. In the initial stage of the program, radiologists whose review time averaged less than 24 hours during the evaluation period were offered $2,500 every six months. MGH achieved this goal- radiologist review went from 22.7 hours to 12.6 hours. Interestingly, turnaround time remained low even after MGH abandoned the program- mean total turnaround times were 16.3 hours in the 3 month period after program termination. The researchers also mention that monetary incentives were likely not the only factor that lead to improved radiologist report turnaround. Simply providing transparency of performance, as in pay-for-reporting programs, also encourages improvement.
This latest report follows a general trend of hospital's raising service standards for radiologists, an area we discussed in our national meeting speech, "Re-envisioning the Imaging Enterprise" and a recent webconference, "Trends in Hospital-Radiologist Contracting."
Physicians order too many unnecessary imaging tests that fail to discover the cause of patients' complaints, increase patients' exposure to excess radiation and raise medical costs, according to a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Radiology.
The paper is based on the "best ideas" from a two-day summit with representatives from more than 60 groups involved in medical imaging. William Hendee, the paper's author and a radiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that most imaging procedures enhance the accuracy of medical diagnoses or guide treatment decisions, making the tests "fully justified." However, he wrote that "some imaging procedures are not justified, because they are unnecessary for the patient's care." Two reasons for unnecessary tests include physicians' attempts to protect against potential future lawsuits and physicians who refer patients to imaging facilities they own, Hendee said.