How the Affordable Care Act Affects Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Six years yield five significant changes in the field of sonography

Over the last six years, healthcare in the U.S. has undergone a rapid series of changes and reforms. From the way Americans pay for care to how care is provided, the post Affordable Care ActIllustration of Affordable Care Act era of healthcare is unlike anything we have ever experienced. Diagnostic medical sonographers, also known as ultrasound technologists or ultrasound technicians, have begun to feel the effects of the Affordable Care Act on almost every aspect of their daily job duties.

More healthcare consumers

More Americans are consuming healthcare services than ever before. It is estimated that more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act from federal and state exchange programs, employer mandates, and/ or Medicaid expansion. Hospital and healthcare facilities are seeing more patients than ever before, which means more diagnostic tests, like ultrasounds, are being ordered. However, this sharp increase in healthcare consumption was not matched with an equal increase in human or capital healthcare resources.

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Columbus Regional Health Gets Creative When 3 RAD Rooms are Eliminated

Reliability, redundancy and mobility help provider keep pace with imaging needs

Many radiology departments are feeling the pressure of “doing more with less”. For Columbus Regional Health in Indiana, the pressure was literal: the medical provider had to eliminate three RAD rooms yet maintain the same Bill-Algee-Columbus-Regional-Healththroughput. The hospital is meeting the challenge by transitioning to DR and adding mobility to the modality mix.

The provider started by converting its CR mobile X-ray equipment to DR with Carestream’s mobile retrofit kit. That retrofit was followed by the purchase of a Carestream mobile DRX-Revolution.

“Mobility is essential to bringing imaging to where we need it,” said Bill Algee, Radiology Manager at Columbus Regional Health. “Our staff drove it around for a little bit and fell in love with the product.”

Next, the hospital outfitted its imaging room in the emergency department with a DRX-Evolution Plus. The product’s high level of reliability is critical to meeting the needs of the busy ED, which was relocated a considerable distance away from the imaging department.

“It absolutely has to be reliable because it’s the only imaging solution in that area of the hospital,” said Algee. “The reliability factor was really important to us.”

Also, the product’s extended tube column and wall stand provide make it flexible enough to meet the varying imaging needs of patients coming in to the ED.

The hospital has an added level of support from Carestream’s DR Detectors. The wireless DR detector can be used with imaging systems throughout the facility.

“Having uniform detectors gives us an added layer of redundancy. If a cassette goes down in emergency, we can replace it with one from diagnostics,” explained Algee. “And the software is always the same no matter what room we go in to. The technologist doesn’t have to take the time to figure out what to do in different rooms.”

The combination of retrofitting existing equipment and purchasing new products helped Columbus Regional Health transition from CR to DR to meet the U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act at their own pace.

“We kind of took it in baby steps and that worked well for us. Our staff didn’t feel overwhelmed,” said Algee. “Carestream was the right partner to help us through it; they had the right methodology.”

Watch the video interview with Bill Algee to learn more about Columbus Regional Health’s transition to DR. #radiology #AHRA2016

Erica Carnevale

 

Erica Carnevale is a marketing manager at Carestream Health in the United States and Canada Region.

AHRA Update: Stressful Changes Looming for Radiology

Cuts in reimbursement and imaging, new Joint Commission standards and increasing patient expectations were top topics at AHRA2016.

A “sea change” in the environment of care, cuts in reimbursement and new standards from the Joint Commission were among the topics causing heartburn for radiology administrators at the AHRA2016 annual meeting.Image of person showing stress to AHRA updates

Sarah Hostetter of the Advisory Board Company opened her presentation by saying that “the changes in healthcare are enough to induce the need for an imaging stress test”. She then delivered an informative presentation on the “Key Forces Shaping Imaging Economics” that include volume, growth and regulatory outlooks for imaging, and the impacts of consumerism and value-based care.

Added stressors came in the form of updated standards from the Joint Commission that were presented by Judith Atkins, RN, MSN, McKenna Consulting. “For most providers, most of their reimbursement comes from Medicare. So Medicare has the power and they drove the Joint Commission to change its diagnostic standards,” Atkins said. “The new parameters will dramatically decrease imaging numbers.” Continue reading

AHRA 2016 Keynote: The Campaign to Stop Global Whining

Image of Carestream’s Dan Monaghan

Dan Monaghan, Carestream Health, Introducing the AHRA Keynote Speaker

Before introducing the keynote speaker Monday at AHRA 2016, Carestream’s Dan Monaghan asked the radiology administrators in attendance three questions:

  1. Do you need more hours in the day?
  2. Do you wish you had more time and more energy?
  3. Could you use less stress and more fun in your life?

With hands raised and heads nodding, there was agreement that medical imaging directors are feeling the pressure of increased demands from hospital administrators, reimbursement changes and cost controls.

Speaker and author Christine Cashen took to the stage and used a mix of humor and relatable storytelling to compel AHRA attendees to change their perspectives and join her in the “Campaign to Stop Global Whining.”  Her message was simple: conflict is inevitable; different personalities require different approaches; only you can control your emotional state; and as a leader in your department, your positive energy will fuel your team’s success.

This shift in mindset can start with a few simple changes:

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AHRA – Any Advice for a First-Time Attendee?

What topics in healthcare imaging interest you the most?

August is a bit of a milestone for me. I will be six months into my new position as social media manager at Carestream and I’m going to my first radiology trade show – AHRA. I’ve been to numerous trade shows in other industries, and I always enjoy the energy of the events.

At AHRA, I’m eager to hear firsthand about the trials and tribulations of healthcare imaging from our customers and industry thought leaders. I’ll also be on the prowl for great content for Carestream’s blog, Everything Rad. Being a social media manager, I plan to take and post lots of photos and quotable quotes. I also hope to capture and share attendees’ insights on their biggest pain points and upcoming changes that excite them.

Here are the sessions I plan to attend. I’d love to hear the feedback of veteran attendees: are there other must-see speakers I should squeeze into my schedule Sunday, Monday or Tuesday?  Any advice for navigating the labyrinth of the Opryland Resort and Convention Center? Suggestions for great places to eat in Nashville are also welcome! Image of Carestream booth at AHRA

My first session is on Sunday: Planning for a Technology Driven Department. Enrico Perez, BS, RT, CRA, FAHRA, of Winthrop University Hospital will talk about the daunting task of future planning for departments and areas where imaging plays a key role. He states that, “this requires an understanding of what exists, the expectation of your customer and the visions for the future since we know our designs that are expandable, the systems upgradeable, and how we integrate with other systems in use are key to our success.” Continue reading

Experience with Latest Ultrasound Equipment Eases Transition to Workforce

Insights from a new graduate

In the world of ultrasound, there are incredible amounts of changes in technology that cause equipment to get outdated quickly. The differences in devices are especially evident to students and graduates as they transition from the classroom to clinical practice.

Kayla Sickles, a Technical Director, Echocardiographer and Vascular Sonographer at a private outpatient office, says when older technology is used in the classroom, students don’t gain experience or have the opportunity to practice on the equipment that they will actually use in the field.
Kayla-Sickles-sonographer

“Ultrasound is very user dependent,” explains Sickles. “If you don’t take a picture, the radiologist doesn’t see it and therefore could give a wrong diagnosis.”

To help provide a better real world experience for students like Sickles, Carestream is donating $1 million in new ultrasound systems to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program to be installed in RIT’s new Clinical Health Sciences Center. The donation will help RIT faculty provide a richer academic experience for students through involvement with a broader variety of ultrasound systems. Continue reading