By Jim Begg, Vice President, National Accounts, Apricus
Diagnostic imaging services play a crucial role in workers’ compensation by providing essential insights into the nature and severity of an injury, guiding treatment plans, and optimizing an effective recovery process. Imaging techniques not only assist health care professionals in providing medical care, but also enable employers and insurers to make informed decisions when managing workers’ compensation claims.
As diagnostic imaging has progressed, the industry has had to contend with a host of challenges and new demands. By delving into the dynamics of this field, we can gain deeper insight into the necessary efforts to deliver top-notch imaging services, especially in the realm of workers’ compensation.
A Changing Landscape for Diagnostic Imaging
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 3.6 billion diagnostic medical exams are performed every year. A rise in the utilization of diagnostic imaging can be attributed to technological advancements in scan quality that is enabling radiologists to detect injuries, conditions, and diseases more accurately.
These advancements have simultaneously led to a reduction in scan costs, which has opened access to diagnostic imaging technology for a broad range of patients. In the past, the high cost associated with imaging may have deterred use. With the convergence of enhanced scan quality, lowered costs, and improvements in diagnosis accuracy, there has been a substantial increase in the utilization of imaging services in workers’ compensation.
Radiologist Shortage Obstacles
While the need for medical imaging services has surged, the number of practicing radiologists in the U.S. will likely be insufficient to meet the growing demand. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (PDF) (AAMC), the U.S. is projected to have a shortage of 17,000 to 42,000 radiologists and other specialized professionals by 2033.
The factors contributing to this shortage are widespread. Many radiologists are approaching retirement, and the number of medical students choosing to specialize in the field has dwindled. Moreover, while the quantity of imaging studies typically rises by approximately five percent annually, the expansion of radiology residency positionsv lags at a rate of two percent.
A lack of radiologists can have a dramatic impact on injured employee care. Shortages lead to increased turnaround times, which negatively impact injured employee recovery times and inevitably increase total claims costs. One study revealed that delays in radiology imaging independently forecast the length of a patient’s hospital stay.
Managing Workforce Challenges
The health care sector stands as the second-largest hit by the Great Resignation, and these departures have resulted in a significant hiring uptick for essential health care employees, including registered nurses, technologists, schedulers and medical receptionists. This situation, along with the existing shortage of radiologists, results in prolonged delays for diagnostic imaging services.
These staffing shortages cause facility disruptions and compromise care. A Radiology Business survey found staffing to be the main challenge for over 50 percent of respondents across roles, from radiologists to IT professionals, picture archives, and communication system managers to all positions in-between. This triggers a cycle where hiring difficulties lead to increased workloads and challenges throughout the team, constituting the second major obstacle in radiology practices.
To address delays and staffing shortages, numerous practices have adopted alternative staffing models, including non-physician providers (NPRPs) such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and registered radiologist assistants.
There are also solutions that are expected to enhance diagnostic imaging efficiency in the coming years. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into diagnostic imaging is emerging as an opportunity for technology to support imaging professionals and alleviate workloads. AI in diagnostic imaging could impact the volume of studies, reporting and classification, deeper image reading, big data, and cost reduction.
The rise of mobile diagnostic imaging services is also a significant opportunity. Mobile imaging delivers diagnostic services directly to patients, whether in medical facilities, residences, or workplaces. According to a recent report, the market share for mobile diagnostic imaging services is anticipated to surpass $2.7 billion by 2032, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.9 percent. These services can address common delays in diagnostic imaging, eliminating the need for patient transportation, decreasing the occurrence of missed appointments, and significantly speeding up the image capture process.
The Value of a Specialty Solutions Provider
It is important for payers to partner with a specialty solution provider who can address these advancements and challenges with their expertise and broad diagnostic network to ensure the most appropriate imaging service is accessed and scheduled for each injured employee’s specific need.
Specialty solution networks vet diagnostic imaging providers to ensure they have up to date equipment and produce quality scans. Their experienced care coordinators arrange for services and schedule imaging in a timely manner within their network of reputable imaging facilities who have undergone rigorous credentialing to ensure each practice has the proper licensure, certifications, and insurance.
A well-organized specialty solution provider plays an important role in managing costs and optimizing efficiency to avoid prolonged appointments that can delay treatment and increase costs. By ensuring the right scans are conducted promptly and efficiently, a specialty provider not only contributes to better outcomes for the injured employee, but also frees up adjusters and case managers to focus on other critical claim management tasks.
About Jim Begg
Jim Begg is the vice president of national accounts for Apricus. He has worked in the workers’ compensation industry since 1987 and has extensive experience in various account management and sales roles. Jim is responsible for the oversight of the Apricus account management team, directly oversees key accounts, and works closely with the operations team to drive positive buying experiences.
About Apricus, an Enlyte Company
Apricus is a specialty solution provider with long-standing industry roots and partners. We are the combination of two industry-leading specialty programs offering durable medical equipment, diagnostic imaging, physical medicine, home health, transportation, translation, and more to the casualty insurance market. Every day, Apricus works to coordinate the most effective injury-recovery services for those who have been hurt in an accident.
Apricus parent Enlyte is a WorkCompWire ad partner.
This is NOT a paid placement.