From the July 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By: Paul Dubiel
Health care is going through an extremely tumultuous time.
While there has never been a time when changes haven’t been present, it seems there were always periods where we could catch our breath, take stock of the changes and make the appropriate adjustments. This doesn’t seem to be the case this time around.
Changes in health care are coming faster and more furious than ever. Hospital staff can hardly take a breath when another random and seemingly impossible change has been dictated to us by some governing body or by our own administration. Not since the implementation of DRGs in the early ‘90s has so much stress been felt by every person in the industry. Change has affected more than just hospital workers — it’s felt by payers, providers, manufacturers, and most importantly, patients and their families. The fundamental question remains: how do we care for our patients amid these changes and how does the staff adapt to them and still provide the excellent patient care that brought us to this profession in the first place?
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Imaging, like the rest of health care, has not escaped the need for change. Since I took my first X-ray back in 1984, change in imaging has dealt mostly with technological advances. When I started X-ray school, CT was just becoming a relevant tool for diagnosis, X-rays were still taken using film and needed to be processed with old style chemical processes, MRI (or, back then, NMR) was not even discussed. Special procedure images were done using cut film and a piece of equipment called a Schoenander. There were no PET scans, or multi slice CT or PACS or digital X-ray, but we survived and over time the equipment changed and developed and so did our ability to care for our patients.
Change for us meant advancement both in patient care and ability to diagnose and treat them, as well as our own advancement and professional growth by learning and mastering new, more complex technology. Change for us meant growth and potential and our challenge was to grasp the new technology and take our knowledge to help improve patient outcomes. The changes in our technology allowed both volumes and revenues to grow as new procedures not only helped diagnose diseases, but also were used as part of treatment and follow-up. Imaging was becoming a profit center for the hospital or outpatient center, and as profits continued to rise in health care in general, and specifically in imaging, the growth would become unsustainable and something needed to be done to control that growth. While profits soared, the number of uninsured or underinsured people needing health care increased, and while we did not withhold treatment from these patients the cost to the hospitals and the government put a huge burden on the system. It was unsustainable and cause for what we now see as the biggest changes in the history of the health care system.