NightHawk aims to ease radiologist fears

June 7, 2010

In a new policy that could make hospital-based radiologists breathe a bit easier, NightHawk Radiology has announced limits on what it will do to obtain new contracts in hospital settings.

In a new policy that could make hospital-based radiologists breathe a bit easier, NightHawk Radiology has announced limits on what it will do to obtain new contracts in hospital settings.

Recently, the company said that under its “Commitment to Community,” it will not do business with hospitals directly or indirectly unless: 

  • The hospital doesn’t currently have a radiology group providing services, and hasn’t had a group doing so for a reasonable period of time.

  • The hospital is serviced by a radiology group and the radiology group invites NightHawk or a practice management organization to enter into a service agreement with them.

  • The hospital initiates an open competition to consider changing the radiology group servicing it. NightHawk would consider supporting a practice management organization if neither the incumbent radiology group nor any competing radiology group is a NightHawk customer.

An expert who has followed radiology practice for years said NightHawk’s position statement is a good move.

“I think it’s a very smart business strategy,” said Dr. Lawrence Muroff, president and CEO of Imaging Consultants in Tampa, FL. “It doesn’t hurt them in the least and it paints them as the good guy, whether or not there was any altruistic motivation involved.”

Many teleradiology groups have taken the easy route to revenue in the past year, competing with radiology groups and threatening the viability of the traditional radiology group model, said Dave Engert, NightHawk’s president and CEO.

“We have heard from the radiology community there is an opportunity to help radiology groups improve their services to their hospital customers, without being predatory or competing with these groups,” he said.

NightHawk is staking out potential new business in a way that might make people more open to working with them, Muroff said.

Today’s radiologists are increasingly pressured to provide subspecialty reads as well as call coverage that goes beyond their resources, Muroff said. The options to meet the hospital’s needs are to become larger by hiring more radiologists, affiliating with another practice, or partnering with a company like NightHawk to provide the expertise, hours, and coverage the radiology practice cannot provide. “If I’m a small radiology group and I’m being pressured to provide musculoskeletal expertise, I’m less reluctant to pursue a company that has stated in writing it will not displace me than to take my chances with a company that is overtly displacing radiologists,” Muroff said.

NightHawk stands to gain from this move because the market for night-call coverage is drying up, and there are a lot of teleradiology companies fighting for a very small number of practices. Therefore the only place to grow is through day reads, whether that’s specialty reads or covering contracts, which is exactly what NightHawk is doing.