5 Benefits to Outsourcing Health-Related Imaging Diagnostics
Written by Jeska Blevins
If you are like many health care providers, you may be reluctant to outsource your imaging diagnostics to a teleradiology service. Perhaps you have concerns about the accuracy of the service — can someone who isn’t familiar with your patient really provide accurate interpretation of images? Are the readers actually qualified to provide the service? Are they specialists in your area? Or, perhaps you have concerns about the cost or the security of the information you are sharing over the Internet.
Concerns about the impact of working with an outside service provider are only natural, but when it comes to teleradiology, the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. When you opt to outsource your diagnostics, you, your patients and your practice will benefit.
Thanks to teleradiology, patients no longer have to wait hours, or even days, for their images to be read and for their doctor to make a diagnosis. When the images are sent to a dedicated team of experienced professionals whose only responsibility is to read and interpret maxillofacial radiology images, patients aren’t forced to wait while the doctor finishes working with other patients, or radiology staff works through the pile of other images that they’re expected to process that day. There’s no downtime; the images are immediately transmitted via the Internet and the process begins immediately. The primary physician still performs the final read of the image, but using a teleradiology provider considerably speeds up the process.
Again, teleradiology providers generally only perform the initial reading of images but do not provide the final diagnosis or treatment. In-house physicians will review the images to confirm the preliminary findings and reach their own conclusions. However, having an additional set of eyes to review the image helps improve quality control. The fact that every image is seen by a minimum of two trained professionals gives patients peace of mind that nothing has been missed, and that their diagnosis is accurate, while also meeting strict quality assurance guidelines.
Reducing costs is always a concern in health care, and outsourcing your imaging diagnostics can actually result in significant savings for your practice. Instead of hiring staff to manage imaging, which in a smaller practice could mean hiring part-time staff or sending patients to larger radiology providers and waiting for imaging results to be returned, you can manage your imaging in-house for a lower cost. Even larger hospitals, which may only need a few images reviewed each day, are turning to teleradiology and reducing the costs of paying an employee to be on-site without any work to do.
Not only does outsourcing your imaging diagnostics improve accuracy by virtually guaranteeing that all images are viewed by multiple people, it also helps avoid errors that could lead to HIPAA violations. There is always a risk when information is transmitted via computer networks that confidential information could fall into the wrong hands, but experienced teleradiology providers are knowledgeable in the complexities of the laws governing the transmission of personal health information and use private, secure platforms and processes and procedures that are HIPAA compliant. These platforms actually make the private health information more secure, as records are stored in a secure electronic database rather than on paper, which can easily be misplaced or incorrectly handled.
While excellent health care providers can be found in every corner of the country, there are places where patients may be required to travel great distances to find the maxillofacial surgeon or service that they need. With teleradiology, patients can visit their local physicians for preliminary care and have their images interpreted by specialists outside of their area before developing a plan of care.
Not all teleradiology providers are created equal, and it’s up to you as the provider to partner with a firm that meets your needs and offers the highest level of service; for example, you should always work with a teleradiology firm that offers real-time access to those reading the images so that you can ask questions and get clarification if necessary. When you make the right choice, you will see an improvement in your practice in terms of efficiency, cost savings and quality outcomes.