Impressions of 2010
It’s no surprise that Medicare reimbursement figured prominently in the sketch. For much of the year, the prospect of looming reimbursement cuts weighed heavily on the minds of all healthcare stakeholders.
American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, likened the repeated delays to stopping Medicare payment cuts related to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) to a roller coaster ride. The ride ended Dec. 16, albeit temporarily, when President Barack Obama signed legislation that extends the current reimbursement payment rates through 2011. Providers across the U.S. have heaved a collective sigh of relief. However, the legislation is a Band-aid—not a cure—and a permanent fix to the SGR problem is still needed.
Another problem with a Band-aid fix is the molybdenum-99 shortage. The Chalk River reactor has been repaired, but a long-term, domestic solution to the moly crisis has yet to be solidified.
“There is a desperate need for us to develop a domestic capability in the U.S. and it’s still unsolved,” points out Robert W. Atcher, PhD, MBA, director of the National Isotope Development Center, U.S. Department of Energy.
However, the American Medical Isotopes Production Act that would authorize the appropriation of $163 million to support initiatives to produce Mo-99, was stalled in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., after breezing through the House.
Other areas have seen tremendous progress. Early in the year, the FDA launched an initiative to cut radiation exposure from CT, nuclear medicine and fluoroscopy exams. It’s a multi-faceted objective, with all players on board.
Providers are paying more attention to protocols and indications, vendors are offering new tools and lawmakers are in on the action, as evidenced by California becoming the first U.S. state to mandate radiation dose tracking. Reducing radiation exposure is a work-in-progress, and industry and providers are making continued progress.
A look at the sixth and seventh top stories—Thomson Reuters Top 100 hospitals and Health Imaging & IT’s Top 25 connected facilities—suggests that business intelligence is essential. In the increasingly competitive and ultra-lean healthcare environment, we need to know what works in the market, how other practices succeed and, at the same time, we need to understand our own businesses, pinpointing gaps and areas for improvement, and applying lessons from market leaders to our own organizations.
On the cusp of 2011, leading indicators are promising. Providers are tiptoeing back into the technology market, according to reports from RSNA 2010. While it is hard to predict where the New Year will take us, it’s fairly safe to suggest that operative terms will include efficiency, collaboration and safety.
We wish all of our readers a wonderful holiday season and a productive and profitable 2011.