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Implementing Best Practices for Restarting Radiology

Implementing Best Practices for Restarting Radiology

June 17, 2020 -- The harsh realities of COVID-19 have placed incredible strain on today's healthcare system, with numerous radiology groups experiencing extreme financial uncertainties. At the beginning of this pandemic, for instance, the federal government recommended that all elective appointments and procedures be canceled or postponed, which led to a massive decline in imaging volumes and large decreases in revenue.

Practices have also resorted to virtual methods, such as teleradiology, to conduct business and continue serving patients and gather much-needed revenue. However, with summer approaching, many individual states have lifted "stay-at-home" orders, enabling previously canceled radiology screenings to be rescheduled.

Radiology groups need to devise strategic plans to weather the remainder of this pandemic and for the imminent spike in business once local restrictions are reduced. Below are best practices radiologists should consider as they continue operating under COVID-19 and beyond.

Review Revenue Cycle Management

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, radiology practices have lost around 55% of their revenue due to the decline in outpatient imaging volumes, according to the Medical Group Management Association. A time of diminished revenue underlines the importance for practices to enhance revenue cycles now to recover as much as they can before falling even more behind.

Whether a practice's billing is done in-house or outsourced to a third-party, it's important for the practice to utilize readily available technology to internally "scrub" claims for the accuracy and completeness required for clean filing. Technology enables a rules-based review of billing files that's not dependent on a person and ensures accuracy before submission. It also can help identify opportunities for process improvement to reduce the potential of any future errors.

Additionally, practices should investigate further into their revenue cycle management (RCM) processes for any possible billing gaps. Numerous gaps can often go unnoticed and, if left unchecked, can lead to significant subsequent issues and revenue losses or delays. To avoid any further revenue complications, practices should consider upgrading their billing service solutions.

The most successful RCM approaches automatically focus on billing gaps by addressing reasons that are not the fault of the billing function but of the payor. These types of processes are technologically driven and not people-dependent or intensive in numbers. Amid the COVID-19 environment, many in-house and third-party billing services have had to figure out how to decentralize the operation to homes, which has strained the dominant operations of practices as gaps are found. Installing billing systems that address these challenges will help institutions to recognize possible gaps and prevent any interruption in radiologist workflow.

Upgrade Scheduling Capabilities

As more states begin to reopen businesses and reduce social distancing restrictions, radiology practices need to prepare for a large influx of rescheduled and newly scheduled exams. Although this business spike will be a welcome sign to practices across the country, it could also easily overwhelm those who are ill-equipped to handle the increase in demand. It is imperative that practices plan for both best-case and worst-case scenarios in scheduling new screening activities and the effect it has on staff safety.