NighShift Radiology co-founder makes a case for teleradiology for small practices and offers guidance for selecting a provider.
Teleradiology offers a number of benefits to radiology practices. For smaller groups, it can serve as a release valve to help bridge staffing gaps by providing coverage outside of regular office hours during overnights. It can also provide a work/life balance for doctors, while still maintaining a commitment to client service. Finally, teleradiology helps practices meet the needs of their client base without absorbing the overhead of hiring additional personnel to meet this need.
Partnering with a teleradiology provider is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly - especially for small and mid-sized groups. After all, a teleradiology provider will serve a practice’s surrogate to clients, so the margin of error must be small to avoid jeopardizing business relationships. For an ideal fit that yields dividends, it’s important to conduct thorough due diligence to identify the right partner with the right capabilities that understands the unique needs of smaller practices.
Here are a few elements to consider when finding a teleradiology provider:
Experience: First and foremost, providers should have proven expertise working with small practices. Large providers trying to scale down services to obtain business from a smaller practice might fall short, offering resources intended for much larger entities that don’t match. A successful track record of working with smaller practices is a must.
Customer service: Just because a practice is small shouldn’t mean they have to clamor for attention. A small practice should expect a dedicated client contact from their teleradiology provider to facilitate their requests from a service and clinical perspective. Responsiveness is key.
Continuity: High staff turnover makes it difficult to cultivate working relationships that can streamline communications and improve service to the practice and patients. To that end, staff retention is an important consideration. Teleradiologists should also be U.S.-based to benefit from high quality standards, consistency and accessibility.
Stability: A teleradiology provider should have a history of fiscal stability and longevity. After all, it would be a waste of time and money if a provider went out of business, or was suddenly acquired, which can alter the working relationship significantly.
Business focus: Teleradiology is a unique discipline that requires institutional knowledge to be successful. It should not be a tertiary line of business. As such, it’s important to work with a group whose sole focus is teleradiology, with the staff and experience to support it. This is also important because a group with a “diverse” business model could present a threat to their client’s traditional dayside business.
Technology: Because smaller practices might not have technology and expertise in place (such as a VPN and T1 lines), they need a provider with the resources to help them leverage teleradiology services, along with guidance to keep systems operational.
Keeping these measures in mind while searching for a teleradiology provider can help avoid serious missteps that could create a multitude of headaches. There should never be any question about a partner’s capabilities, loyalties or commitment to a practice. However, the right partner can benefit a practice from a clinical, HR and operational standpoint, while providing the bandwidth to help a business grow.
Michael Myers, MD, is a co-founder of NightShift Radiology, a national teleradiology provider established in 2001.