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Implementing CR To DR? Key Points To Keep In Mind

August 23, 2017
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Implementing CR to DR? Key Points to Keep in Mind

The reality of declining Medicare reimbursements is in full swing as of early 2017, based on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 signed in December 2015. This new reality for practices still using analog (film) imaging is reduced reimbursement rates of 20% this year, with Computed Radiography (CR) reimbursement rates set to decrease by 7% in 2018 and an additional 10% reduction for CR reimbursement in 2023. For those orthopedic practices in the process of finalizing strategies to retire older technologies for upgraded Digital Radiography (DR), there’s a lot to consider.


The Benefits of DR to Your Practice

  1. Faster imaging which equals greater time efficiency. There won’t be chemical processing, as with analog, nor will your practice experience the processing lag time of CR. In addition, radiology technicians won’t need to leave a patient’s side when processing analog and CR images.

  2. Improved image clarity and diagnostic efficiencies mean more patients. Your rad techs will now be able to transfer better-quality images digitally more quickly. the quicker turnaround allows providers to view images faster and fit more patients into their clinic each day.

  3. Reduced radiation exposure for patients and staff. DR uses considerably less radiation; up to four times less than analog and CR.

  4. Simplifies overall workflow and efficiency. Not only can providers see more patients because of the speed at which DR can process images, advanced DR systems are able to be pre-programmed to optimize images for patient size, body part, and so on. This eliminates the need to calculate and make adjustments manually. In addition, integration to EHR, and other practice management software eliminates the need for clinical staff to keep track of hard copy X-ray images.

  5. Lower cost of ownership. Because modern DR systems take less space and enable providers to see more patients, it helps reduce a practice’s overall imaging ownership costs.

  6. Improved patient satisfaction.  Advanced DR systems are designed to optimize workflow, increase staff efficiency and improve outcomes by expediting the diagnostic process and elevating the patient experience. Information is instantly retrieved, prompting the system to move to a predetermined position and source-to-image receptor distance (SID) to save time when positioning the patient. Pre-programmed positioning and built-in guides help staff make smarter decisions to produce quality images even in challenging views or restrictions in patient mobility.


Alternatives to Purchasing a DR System

Buying a DR system outright isn’t a practice’s only option, two ways of transitioning to DR while also managing your initial upfront costs include:

  • Retrofitting: Adding DR onto your existing CR system is a cost-effective option, but the major disadvantage to practices is that because DR has higher speed requirements, it can put more stress on your current CR system, increasing downtime and possible increases in maintenance costs. A word of caution, if the X-ray room is too old, it may not be able to keep up with DR. It is not uncommon for the older system to start failing due to overheating.

  • Leasing: This allows your practice to take advantage of DR’s benefits immediately, but at a lower price point than purchasing — both at the implementation stage and ongoing. Additional advantages for a practice leveraging this option includes access to the same service benefits as purchasing a DR system, while also having the added edge of upgrading your imaging equipment more frequently as enhanced technologies become available from your vendor.


Ask the Right Questions

To avoid frustration, lost time and lost revenue when transitioning to a DR system, practices either using analog or CR should vet vendors on their implementation process and beyond. Your team will be focusing on the DR system cost, but here are some important questions to consider:

  1. Does the vendor understand your practice needs?

  2. Does the vendor offer alternatives to upgrade your existing equipment, as well as complete systems?

  3. What leasing and/or financing terms is the vendor able to offer?

  4. Will the digital system fit easily in your current location? There may be hidden constructions costs when considering replacing a system.

  5.  Is the digital system designed to keep up with your current and future needs?

  6.  What training, if any, does the vendor offer staff members? Do they offer training for staff members on both the DR system and integration with existing clinical practices?

  7.   What warranties and service agreements does the vendor offer?

  8. What kind of service can you expect to receive once the warranty has lapsed? Does the vendor provide additional service and support plans? What is the vendor’s service history, and do they provide their own company-branded service or do they outsource this work to a third-party vendor? Can they troubleshoot your system remotely?

  9. What do their current customers say about their service?

  10. What client references can they provide? Speak to two or three of the vendor’s clients in different phases: One that recently transitioned within the last three months and one that’s been in the system for at least 12 months.


Implementation and Downtime During the DR Transition

Deciding on what DR system direction your practice will take is one thing, implementing the DR technology is an entirely different animal. Downtime is any orthopedic practice’s nightmare for both providers and their patients, especially when it comes to imaging. Your vendor should be able to help your team develop the implementation plan to minimize delays. Ask your vendor if they offer project management services to coordinate construction, IT and department workflow to minimize disruptions during the implementation.


Success After the Transition

Remember that transitioning to DR isn’t a flip of the switch. Ensure that all stakeholders are aware and educated on your practice’s significant change.

  1. Observe the improvement to clinic workflow. This will include greater throughput of patients and how this new, improved workflow will integrate into your clinical practices. You may also need to determine adjustments to clinical staff workload and/or duties, now that there may be downtime as there is no longer the need to process analog (film) or CR cassettes.

  2. Don’t forget to remarket to referring partners and patients. Switching outdated imaging technology to the latest-and-greatest provides the opportunity to communicate with stakeholders that your practice has the most clinically sound and accurate diagnostic imaging tool on the market. Make sure to highlight this fact on your website, on-hold phone messaging, onsite patient communications, your referral marketing, and wherever else you communicate to your stakeholders. Discuss how the changeover benefits patients and why. This can include:

  • More efficient, translating to less time for the patient in X-ray

  • Higher accuracy, resulting in a better diagnosis

  • Enhanced safety, as there is less radiation exposure to patients

  • Completely digital, allowing for easier transmission of data to referring offices, etc.

Any significant transition to a clinical practice’s workflow can have its challenges, but with the right implementation plan, your practice will be able to take immediate advantage of DR’s power, accuracy and efficiency.

Your DR solution will be unique to your clinic workflow. Let one of our DR specialists review your current imaging workflow to provide the best options to transition your practice to DR. [concatact US]