Controlling costs, increasing revenue, and serving the needs of the patient don’t need to be mutually exclusive pursuits. As Robert Hughes, vice president of clinical technology and R&D for TriMedx, told Tech Edge, a combination of strategic thinking, hands-on equipment management, and cooperation can lead to a robust, profit-driven radiology department or imaging center.

According to Hughes, among the top ways that departments can save money are by aligning its needs with the entire healthcare enterprise, controlling the equipment lifecycle, mitigating equipment risk, maximizing equipment uptime, managing service contracts properly, leveraging buying power by entering into purchasing partnerships with other hospitals or imaging centers, and cross training technologists about various modalities and how they work.

In particular, Hughes is an advocate of jettisoning the idea of entering into service contracts with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), relying instead on third-party service providers. This cost-saving idea is the most likely to meet resistance, he said. “The bad part is that [departments] are losing the potential cost savings from a third-party asset management source and this can be substantial if based on the type of equipment,” he said.  “Third-party sources now are more than the small service business. They may be rather large service companies that carry their own parts and complete systems, or they may be asset management companies with many experienced imaging engineers. In all cases, they tend to have experienced OEM engineers that are highly capable on the equipment and perform work at a fraction of the OEM cost.”

Hughes sees the problem of poor asset radiology management affecting the entire healthcare enterprise, not just the imaging department. For instance, he notes that if a modality isn’t functioning when an emergent case comes into the enterprise, then that patient may be transferred to another hospital or care facility. While this is a loss in reimbursement for the emergency department, it is also a loss in revenue for the radiology department and the department where that patient might be treated, an aggregate loss that could have serious implications for patient care and the institution’s viability.

Of all of Hughes’ cost-saving tips, the one he says is easiest to implement is simply tracking costs. “You have to truly understand where your expenses are,” he said.  “And you have to treat the whole department and focus on the whole machine.”