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The Case for Keeping Radiology Practices Independent


The Case for Keeping Radiology Practices Independent

July 9, 2019 -- We are clearly in an era marked by the consolidation of healthcare services into fewer but larger providers, involving not only hospital systems but physician groups as well. Radiology practices are not immune to this trend.

The study Radiology Practice Consolidation: Fewer but Bigger Groups Over Time, published in April by the Journal of the American College of Radiology, shows that practices consisting of 100 or more radiologists grew significantly between 2014 and 2018, while practices of fewer than 100 radiologists declined.

Local practices feel the need to become larger for many reasons; at the same time, physicians usually feel a lot of trepidation about joining with another organization. Before jumping on the merger bandwagon, be sure you've considered the ways you can achieve your goals while remaining independent.

The reasons often cited for the need to merge can generally be reduced to economics, quality improvement, and practice governance, including the following:

> The downward pressure on reimbursement rates and the limited ability of a local practice to

negotiate more favorable rates with payors

> The addition of subspecialty expertise

> A lack of partner physicians who can provide the practice with management oversight

> The need to implement quality improvement programs such as those mandated by the Medicare

Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) or the Merit-Based Incentive Payment

System (MIPS), or possibly by other payors

> Capital for expansion or upgrade of services and equipment

> Capital and expertise for development and maintenance of IT infrastructure

> The need for senior physicians to have an exit strategy that may not exist in their current setting

Look To Existing Relationships

The first step toward remaining independent is to assess the practice's relationship with the hospitals it serves. Building strong bonds with the hospital will benefit both organizations and can help solve many of the perceived hurdles the group faces. Be sure to maximize your participation in the hospital's physician hospital organization (PHO) to take advantage of favorable contract rates that may be available.

But a strong relationship with