Owning an Imaging Center used to be a direct path to riches. Not anymore. In the past, before the Stark Law, anyone could open an imaging center, provide an incentive to physicians in the area to refer all of their patient exams to the center, and you were assured of success.
In 1988, Stark introduced an “Ethics in Patient Referrals Act” bill concerning physician self-referrals. Thus the Stark Law was enacted. It was a good law for all patients in the US. Many imaging centers have tried to outsmart the laws but it is not to be. Thus physicians have few, if any, incentives to refer to your imaging center.
However, all is not lost. Patients still have to have exams and physicians still have to refer them. The trick is to get your imaging center to be the main referral center. Some physicians will never send to you. They have allegiance to the center they are sending their patients to.
Front desk clerks do not want to make changes. They may have been in communication with others at the center they are sending to and feel obligated to send to them. It is difficult to change habits and to get people to adapt to new ways of doing things, regardless of the benefits. How many times have you heard ”but we have always done it this way.”
Your job is to encourage them to give you a chance. Remember, they are very busy and are used to the way they have always done things. You have to give them a reason why your center is better and why they should refer to you. If the physician-employer tells their front desk to use you, they certainly will. If the patient requests your center, the physician’s office will have no choice but to oblige them. However barring that, you will have to be very convincing if you want to open an imaging center.
Open an Imaging Center: Money, Money, Money
The reason to spend your time and finances and take a chance on an imaging center is, to be blunt, money. If you do not work hard and have faith and confidence, along with good solid numbers from extensive research, you definitely will not succeed. You might as well take a trip to Las Vegas and put all of your and your stakeholder’s money on red.
There is a much better chance with an Imaging Center if you have done your homework and have a method for success. Before even purchasing the land and building your Center, you must do some homework. There are important questions that have to be answered.
Questions and More Questions
- How many physicians are located nearby your center?
- What specialities do these physicians practice?
- Will these physicians order enough scans to support your business?
- Do these physicians have their own equipment in their offices?
- Why would physicians send to you instead of the hospital or an existing center?
- What is the mix of exams ordered?
- Is the service physicians and patients currently receiving adequate for their needs?
- What would it take to convince physicians to send patients to your center?
- If you open an imaging center, who are the radiologists you will be using?
- What will be the costs of the radiologists?
- Are the radiologists considered to be good in their field by the referring offices?
- Have you included the cost of maintenance contracts in your budget?
- Have you taken into consideration the time your machines might be down for maintenance?
- Have you researched the possible billing alternatives?
- Is it cheaper for you to do the billing in your office or are you going to utilize a service?
- If you are going to do the billing yourself, can you collect more or less than a service?
- Do you have the physical resources to bill in your office?
- Is your estimated budget for your center realistic?
- Do you have a big enough bankroll to carry your center until it is cash flow positive?
- Have you researched the reimbursement for the scans you will be providing?
- Have you taken into account a decrease in the possible reimbursement?
- Have you considered and pursued hospital affiliations that may increase your reimbursement?
- Have you taken into account the possible overstatements by physicians offices?
- Have you researched the possibility of success against other centers being utilized by physicians offices?
- Have you started the paperwork to join different insurance plans?
- Do you have a plan to reach the financial goals necessary for the center to be viable?
- How long will it take to reach this goal?
After researching these questions you need to be critical and decide if the answers warrant opening an imaging center. How much experience do you have, not only running a business but in the medical field in particular? There are always more problems on the horizon that you may have thought about. And it will be your job to solve them.
If you have made the jump to open a center, or perhaps you already have one, it is time to get serious about obtaining patients. You have to work on this every day. It is the backbone of your business. Anyone can open a business but not everyone has the ability to make it thrive.
If you need professional help, get it. This includes all aspects of your business. Often it is cheaper to pay for someone’s expertise than to learn it the hard way. Time is indeed money. The bills do not take a vacation because you want to. You will have to come back to reality when your employees are to be paid. They are not concerned about your cash flow, only you are.
To open an imaging center, you must be innovative in finding ways to obtain more patients. Figure out what patients are looking for in an imaging center. It often relates to costs. In today’s market with deductibles so high, many patients of the past are going without the necessary tests.
Many businesses are attempting to cut costs and may be self insuring. Many victims of accidents want auto insurance to pay their bills but do not know how to make it happen. What can you do to help with their problem and solve yours at the same time?
The answers are out there. You only need to find them.