Although health care reform has already brought about a number of significant changes for imaging centers—electronic medical records, accreditation, and accountable care organizations (ACOs), chiefly among them—there are still many unknowns. One of the most prominent changes that will occur if health care reform continues its current progress is an influx of previously uninsured patients who will require services. In an effort to project the potential needs of imaging providers and calculate the effect this segment of the population will have on the health care industry, Regents Health Resources recently conducted a study to forecast the impact of this change.

Brian Baker, President, Regents Health Resources and National Imaging Network

“We were talking about ACOs and health reform, like consultants do, and it occurred to us that when the uninsured population does become covered or insured, provided that the health care reform legislation stays on track, that’s going to have a dramatic impact on the industry,” said Brian Baker, president of Regents Health Resources and National Imaging Network. “We decided to try to define that impact so we could help the industry and our clients define their own futures.”

Regents Health Resources developed a complex algorithm to determine the effect this previously uninsured segment of the population would have on use rates and reimbursement. What they found was somewhat alarming: In some areas of the country, the infrastructure of the current imaging community may not be able to support this influx of new patients or the cost.

“Our fear, when we look across the country at imaging providers, is that with this onslaught, many of the states and providers could not handle the additional volume. Some because their technology is older, perhaps incomplete, and some because their processes may need to change and become more efficient,” Baker said. “We want to make everyone aware so that they can start making changes to prepare for it today.”

In states like Texas, which the study results indicate will be one of the high-growth areas when these changes go into effect, there could potentially be a 22% increase in imaging, upwards of 40 million additional studies annually. Baker warns that many facilities are resisting new capital expenses on updated equipment, but that with the current state of their resources, many facilities will not be able to handle this increased workload.

Baker does note, however, that the increase from this previously uninsured population will not be uniform across regions. His hope for this study is that it helps prepare Regents Health Resources’ clients, as well as the imaging industry stakeholders, for the potentially massive shifts ahead.

“We want to be able to offer this to the clients that want to know how to plan their businesses,” Baker said. “At Regents, we do a lot of strategic planning for our clients. We believe each imaging provider needs to understand the future imaging use in their local areas. In addition, we think that our lawmakers need to understand the impact so together we can work on solutions that provide appropriate access at competitive costs. We’re not taking a side with regard to reform. We’re just trying to shine a light on the truth of what’s coming down the pike and help the industry prepare.”