I have never been much of a “joiner.” Maybe I have an unconscious connection to that Groucho Marx adage, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” But thankfully, there are plenty of people who thrive as “joiners.” That’s particularly important in medical imaging today.
Ask any radiologist, cardiologist, or oncologist, and they’ll all tell you: The numbers keep getting worse. Reimbursement challenges aren’t going away anytime soon. But far from feeling powerless, the imaging community is embracing that time-tested philosophy of “there is power in numbers.” Professionals are joining together under the umbrellas of a variety of industry associations. These groups are spearheading efforts to improve health policy for patients and physicians alike.
In June, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) launched a print ad campaign inside the Beltway that highlights the power of medical imaging. The goal of the ad was to raise awareness about the value of medical imaging with legislators, policymakers, and other health policy stakeholders just prior to summer recess and while Medicare discussions were in the works.
And talk about the power of numbers—MITA didn’t settle for an advertisement solely sponsored by its own members. Rather, 13 patient advocacy groups, including the American Brain Tumor Association, the Lung Cancer Alliance, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Advocacy Alliance, supported the ad. The advertisement’s fresh creative approach put a human face on medical imaging, cutting through the clutter with an important message in high-profile media outlets like Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, The Hill, CongressDaily, and Politico.
The persuasive “power in numbers” philosophy is evident in this multiassociation advertising effort, and it is evident in other advocacy efforts as well. This past May, some 360 radiologists visited more than 300 members of the House and Senate as part of an American College of Radiology (ACR) campaign to advocate for passage of a Medicare package that avoids cuts to physician reimbursement and medical imaging as well. This effort—which the ACR called a “huge success” (Axis Imaging News, July 2008)—was prompted by the anticipated 10.6% cut to physician payment known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. ACR members fought for a variety of more effective measures, and pushed Congress not to provide SGR relief through more cuts to medical imaging services. Finally, the group asked legislators to address utilization concerns; and just 3 weeks later, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) introduced the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act 2008 (S 3101), which contains two ACR-backed imaging utilization provisions. Clearly, there is power in numbers.
Most recently, the Society of Nuclear Medicine rallied its members around the reimbursement issue. While molecular imaging and therapies are having significant impact on the early detection and diagnosis of many life-threatening diseases, the Society says diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals are not adequately reimbursed. In response, the SNM has proposed reforming radiopharmaceutical reimbursement under Medicare. For more information, visit www.snm.org.
Reimbursement cuts won’t go away on their own. If you want to beat the challenges, join a group and make your voice heard. Even I’m joining the chorus.
This month, Medical Imaging welcomes two members to our Editorial Advisory Board. Steve Sandy, vice president of business development at Fovia, is a medical imaging industry veteran. Furqan H. Tejani, MD, FACC, is director of advanced cardiovascular imaging, division of adult cardiovascular diseases, Margaret T. Wren Department of Internal Medicine at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Marianne Matthews, editor