Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Talk To Congress! recently reviewed a speech given at the RBMA meeting in February, 2008 by Douglas Smith, founder and president of Barrington Lakes Group, a healthcare consulting firm in Barrington, IL. Mr. Smith made some suggestions that are right in line with what I've been saying myself.

Elected officials often don't differentiate between different imaging entities -- radiologist-, corporate-, or referring physician-owned -- but focus instead on imaging's spike in the percentage of total medical services, Smith said.

"The radiology profession is not well understood in the halls of Congress," Smith said. "Many Congress people don't realize that overutilization is something that is done to radiologists, not something they do."

Policy makers have moved to clamp down on costs with legislation such as the DRA, assuming that the increased volume of imaging exams performed compensates for federal reimbursement reductions.

It doesn't, of course. But unless radiologists and administrators begin to educate governmental representatives, medical imaging will get more of the same in coming years, Smith said.

What should the radiological community do about this?
The Association for Quality Imaging (AQI), the American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), and the RBMA have been working to educate governmental representatives on the cost and practice of radiology. But more can be done, especially in light of the experience and resources of the American Hospital Association, the American College of Cardiology, and other advocacy groups. Radiology staff -- from physicians and imaging center operators to teleradiology companies, suppliers, and billing companies -- need to get active to gain a voice in Congress, Smith said.
The message I hear is that Congress (and by extension state legislatures and governors) doesn't have a clue about the imaging self-referral problem in particular, and about what it is that radiologists do in general. I'm sure the self-referrers would be glad to educate them if no one else wants to bother.

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