From those first blurry photographs of the mid-1800s, cameras and photography have improved to become indispensable tools for today’s health diagnoses and patient treatment. Modern technology has spawned medical imaging equipment that is capable of capturing images of our bones, soft tissues, veins, tumors and even cellular activities – and all in stunningly accurate detail.
Today’s doctor can choose from a wide range of imaging exams to assist in diagnosing and treating their patients. X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scans, positron emission tomography scans and ultrasounds are common radiology exams ordered by doctors of all specialties.
Consistent advances in technology and the medical field have saved millions of lives and improved many others. However, as this technology continues to improve, the rising costs of health care, including advanced medical imaging, make it more difficult for patients to get the care they need. Unfortunately, patients delay or refuse valuable imaging procedures, and, as a result, their diagnosis is postponed, treatment is stalled and recovery options become limited.
There is hope in that patients are becoming more informed consumers. High-deductible health care plans make it necessary for them to shop the best possible value and seek affordable pricing without sacrificing quality and service. As a general principle, regarding medical imaging, hospitals are typically the most expensive, followed by hospital-owned outpatient clinics. The best values in medical imaging for routine procedures tend to be independent outpatient centers, where savings can be significant.
“There’s definitely a time when certain diagnostic imaging procedures are better suited in a hospital setting,” stated Laura Deprill, marketing manager for Tricounty Radiology. “However, for routine diagnostic imaging, it’s faster, more convenient and much less expensive to have the procedure performed at an independent outpatient facility such as Tricounty Radiology.”
Deprill continued, “An independent outpatient testing facility doesn’t have the overhead of a hospital and doesn’t have to cover the cost of beds, pharmacy, an ED and around-the-clock staffing. We pass this cost savings on to our patients. Our rates are typically 40% to 60% less than area hospitals.”
Another added value, Deprill explained: “At Tricounty Radiology, you will receive one all-inclusive bill consisting of the radiology test fee and the fee for the radiologist interpreting the test. At the hospital, you will be charged separately for these services.”
One such independent business, South Carolina Diagnostic Imaging, owns and operates nine locations across the state, including Tricounty Radiology in Charleston, with offices in North Charleston and West Ashley. All nine facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology, have on-site, board-certified radiologists and specialize in MRI, CT, ultrasound and X-ray procedures.
The good news is that whether you are insured or not, you have options.
“Most patients don’t realize they have a choice. Your doctor may advise you on where you have the test, but, ultimately, the decision is yours. Once you have a signed order, you can take that radiology order to any facility that offers the test,” Deprill explained.
In order for you to make an informed decision, ask your doctor: “Is there a less expensive option for having this test performed? What nearby facilities offer this test? Can I have a copy of my signed radiology order so I can schedule my own appointment?”
Ask the imaging facility: “Are you in-network with my insurance?” How much will I owe for this test, and how much will my insurance pay? Do your fees include the radiologist’s written report? “How quickly will my doctor receive my results?”
By Janet E. Perrigo