If you work in an emergency or specialty referral hospital you may be lucky enough to work with an in-house radiologist. For the record, everyone else reading this article is jealous of your ability to walk down the hall and get an immediate radiology consult.
The next best thing to having an in-house radiologist is using a teleradiology company. However, selecting the one that works best for your practice can be challenging. There are numerous teleradiology companies out there. Some companies are comprised of your 1 local radiologist and others are large companies that employ many radiologists worldwide.
If you have tried to compare radiology companies and feel frustrated you are not alone. It is hard to compare apples to apples as there are many different products and options available to veterinarians from various different companies.
Not to mention, the caseload of radiographic studies being submitted for interpretation has increased dramatically in recent years. In some cases, there are not enough radiologists to read all the cases and turnaround times have been extended at many companies.
This article will answer which teleradiology company is best for you by asking you to consider the following questions. Use these questions as a guide to finding the teleradiology company that is the best fit for your practice’s needs.
What is the General Interpretation Turnaround Time?
General reporting times can vary from a few hours to 5-7 days. Ask yourself, what timeframe best meets your practice needs. This is an important question and the answer really depends upon your caseload type. But it also can depend upon your clientele, how you staff doctors and when they need the report by, and your clinic type. Make sure to determine if the company guarantees the stated turnaround time. If the turnaround time is not met, what is the consequence?
What is the Cost of Teleradiology?
Cost is an important factor in determining which teleradiology company you choose for your practice. Radiology report pricing has a wide range but is generally in the $40-80 per case range. This is typical for a radiologist’s interpretation of your film during normal business hours.
There is a balancing act with the cost. Generally, a faster interpretation turnaround time will cost more money. So, when you are considering the turnaround time above, this will go hand in hand with the cost to your practice.
Make sure to also consider how you will pass this cost on to your clients. With appropriate education, most clients will agree to teleradiology consults. Another factor to consider when determining how to charge your clients will depend on the fee structure of the company you use. When selecting a teleradiology company ask if they charge per case or per image. Is there tiered pricing based on turnaround time, etc.? If the teleradiology company’s fee schedule is confusing, it can be difficult to determine how to charge your clients appropriately.
What Number of Images Are Considered a “Case?”
When evaluating different teleradiology companies consider how many images you typically take per case. Of course, the number of images is going to vary immensely depending upon the type of study but consider your average.
Do you typically have a study with less than 5 images per case? Maybe you like to send 10 or more images to the radiologist per case. Either way is ok, but remember that most teleradiology companies have a different pricing schedule based on the number of total images submitted.
Does the Company Offer STAT Reporting?
Consider if you need the option of STAT reporting in your practice. Do you ever need a 30, 60, or 120-minute time frame for a radiologist report being available to you? Maybe you would like to select this option all the time or only for those really urgent cases.
STAT reports come at a premium with an additional cost of 30 to 100 or more dollars per case. There are definitely many times when the STAT report is indicated, be sure to determine how you will charge the client. Also, be sure to ask the teleradiology company what percentage of STAT cases are actually read in the requested amount of time. And finally, be sure to ask the company what happens if the STAT turnaround time is not met.
What Hours is Teleradiology Available?
Consider your practice and your operating hours. If you are an ER or urgent care facility you are likely working late nights and weekends. Be sure to verify what hours the company is open and able to produce reports. It is wise to specifically ask about overnight and Sunday coverage.
Are the Radiologists Helpful?
The most important question to ask yourself when considering a teleradiology company is the following: Are the reports that you will receive helpful to you? Will the reports be clear and concise?
There are a variety of styles of radiographic reports. Some companies give verbose paragraph-type reports with treatment recommendations while others are briefer and to the point. Which of these styles fits with you and your way of practice?
To determine how the company operates, ask to see a sample report so you can get a feel of what to expect. Also, enquire if once a report is received would you be able to get in touch with a radiologist in a timely manner? Would you be able to discuss your case and any concerns you have regarding the report or your case?
Select Your Teleradiology Company
Once you have evaluated different companies using the above criteria, you will be able to select a teleradiology company that works well for your practice and clientele. You will have access to a radiologist, and that is pretty close to having an in-house radiologist down the hall.
Once you start receiving those reports, remember to ask these questions again. Ask yourself if the reports that you receive are helpful. Are these clear reports that you receive on time. Likely they will be great, as you have done your homework ahead of time.
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