This is the third and final article in a series reviewing why and how radiology practices set themselves up to lose their long-held professional services agreements. What steps groups can take to turn an adversarial relationship to a collaborative partnership is the subject of this third article. Included is a challenge to change how we conduct business, with the goal of long-term success for everyone involved.
This is the third and final article in a series reviewing why and how radiology practices set themselves up to lose their long-held professional services agreements. Protecting your radiology contract: How did we get here anyway?, how hospitals view “quality” from a business perspective, and Protecting your radiology contract: Quality from the hospital’s perspective, preceded it. What steps groups can take to turn an adversarial relationship to a collaborative partnership is the subject of this third article. Included is a challenge to change how we conduct business, with the goal of long-term success for everyone involved.
For the hospital-based radiology practice, the ultimate success of the group is inextricably linked to the success of the hospital or health system. It’s true a certain amount of radiology business is almost guaranteed to come through the doors of the hospital emergency department, but we have long recognized the desired growth is in outpatient imaging. The outpatient arena is also the traditional battleground for imaging business. Just as radiologist-owned imaging centers have lost market share to entrepreneurial activity and former referral sources, the hospital outpatient business has been fertile ground for all competitive activity.
There are several common complaints voiced by radiologists when discussing their relationship to hospital administration:
Knowing hospital administrators have been willing to terminate long-standing relationships in today’s environment-some with high-quality physician groups-what needs to change in the common dynamic? How can a stagnant or adversarial relationship evolve to a collaborative effort that will be valued by hospital administration and move the radiology professional services agreement out of the spotlight?
The first step is an honest gut check. If you were to step back and view your business relationship from the eyes of hospital administration, based on the quality factors discussed earlier in this series of articles, how does your group fare? Where would you be on the continuum?
How far do you have to go to achieve “valued partnership?” How do you begin to make it happen?
Hospital administrators have proven receptive when the radiology practice initiates the following steps:
The good news? Not all topics must be checked off the to-do list for the relationship to solidify on a new level. Progress will be recognized and long-standing tensions can be relieved early in the program as long as both parties work cooperatively to address common challenges. This also establishes a forum to address new issues while they are young and before they grow into large, emotionally charged problems.
This type of relationship may represent a new way of thinking for the old school radiology group. You know the group, the one whose members feel the professional services agreement is an entitlement and the hospital is lucky they show up for work each day. (While usually unspoken, this attitude is communicated clearly by the group’s behavior).
Times will continue to grow tougher for both hospitals and radiology practices. We have only begun to hear about the challenges ahead with healthcare reform, regulatory activity changing the rules of the game, and an economic climate that promises to tighten down further. The rough-and-tumble good old days, when there was a hefty profit in virtually every imaging venture, are gone. And a competitive marketplace, where teleradiology companies are adapting to take over radiology contracts, is in full play. Collaboration is critical, and if our hospital partners can’t find it in the current arrangement, they now have options to look elsewhere.
Our future as hospital-based physicians depends on better understanding where we are and where we need to be as valued business partners and then adapting to ensure mutual success. Those who fail (or refuse) to play by new, evolving rules can too easily find themselves discarded.
Ms. Kroken is a consultant and principal in Healthcare Resource Providers. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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