2009 Top Trends in Health Imaging & IT

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HIIT070701As an industry that long ago learned to survive and thrive through reimbursement cuts, even the likes of the DRA, health imaging and IT is not recession-proof, but for sure is recovery ready. This month’s 6th annual Top Trends survey results—which come just as economic indicators across the U.S. show that a recovery is underway—indicate that hospitals large and small and imaging centers have weathered the economic storm by a combination of aggressive cost controls, budget cuts, staffing cuts, creating more efficient business processes, improving workflow and productivity, attempts to woo and retain a wider referral base by providing physicians with easy, online access to images and reports as well as a stronger push in marketing and patient and provider relations.

The patterns emerge like this: what is consistent with last year (a lot more than we expected), what has changed dramatically (not as much as we thought) and where do we see subtle changes (all over the place, especially staffing, choices in imaging system purchases). Respondents who work for an excellent cross-section of largely U.S.-based healthcare facilities, tell us technology is a differentiator and for sure a clear priority as spending for IT infrastructure, clinical information systems and imaging systems has remained strong, even among facilities reporting flat and declining revenue. Survey results project that spending on imaging systems, IT infrastructure and clinical IT systems will increase as we roll into 2010.

Across the survey base of 410 clinical, administrative and IT professionals, the top business concerns are just what we expected: decreases in reimbursement, improving patient satisfaction and improving productivity and workflow, creating new revenue sources and government regulation and compliance. To see how your facility is faring compared with your peer group, we’ve broken this and other key categories based on five provider types.

Top 5 Business Concerns

  1. Decrease in reimbursement
  2. Improving patient satisfaction
  3. Improving productivity and workflow
  4. Creating new revenue sources
  5. Government regulation and compliance

Top 5 Purchased IT Infrastructure

  1. PCs/desktops/mobile computers
  2. EMR
  3. Data storage/data center
  4. Disaster recovery/business continuity
  5. CPOE

Top 5 Purchased Clinical IT Systems

  1. Speech recognition software
  2. RIS
  3. HIS
  4. Cardiology PACS
  5. Clinical decision support

Top 5 Purchased Imaging Systems

  1. Ultrasound
  2. MRI
  3. Cardiac Cath Lab
  4. CT
  5. CR

Who’s making money

Revenue or lack thereof has been the big story this year. Decreases in revenue were most often reported by multi-hospital organizations/IDNs (35 percent), followed by community hospitals (27 percent) and imaging centers (14 percent). But imaging providers are holding strong. Across the survey base, 36 percent saw an increase in revenue in 2009 over 2008—however revenue growth was conservative, less than 15 percent for 95 percent of that group. Why the increase? Facilities are implementing operational efficiencies, more efficient charge capture and billing, adding technology that increased revenue and seeing a bump in referrals. Facilities are trying hard to make it work.

There’s an even split between facilities reporting a drop in revenue and those where revenues were flat—at 32 percent each. So how bad is it? Not that bad. Of the 32 percent of facilities with revenue declines, 34 percent saw a decrease of less than 5 percent—and 87 percent saw revenue decreases less than 20 percent. Not surprisingly, declines are blamed on cuts in reimbursement, an increase in uncompensated care, more bad debt and reduced value of stocks and investments.

Another big question in everyone’s minds is how does 2009 compare with 2008? Last year’s survey showed revenues had increased at 46 percent of respondent facilities, and were flat at 31 percent; about 23 percent of the survey base reported a drop in revenue. Facilities reporting an increase in revenue most often saw a bump of 5 to 10 percent (44 percent) or less than 5 percent (29 percent). Declines were in the single digits too, most often less than 10 percent (64 percent).

Getting a leg up

Competition today is coming most often from multi-hospital organizations and imaging centers, as well as physician group practices and community hospitals. While 41 percent of the survey base hasn’t changed their operating hours, about a quarter are extending hours during the week and another 20 percent see the need to extend weekend hours to accommodate patients. There’s a big