In movies and books about the “good old days,” generations of families and even entire communities often shared one set of medical professionals, whether the issue was a sore throat, a pregnancy or a broken bone. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. The days when patients had to stick with one doctor, one specialist, one medical lab or one pharmacy have long departed, and we are absolutely inundated with more choices than ever. But how often are we taking advantage of these choices?
HealthLinks Charleston chatted with the folks at Tricounty Radiology for some tips on selecting the best radiology facility to fit your needs.
HLC: Why is shopping around for outpatient radiology important?
TCR: High-deductible health care plans make it necessary for patients to shop the best possible value. Patients are now responsible for more upfront, out-of-pocket costs. Therefore, patients are now becoming informed health care consumers. Price shopping for radiology is no different than researching options for prescriptions, outpatient procedures or lab testing.
HLC: Describe what happens when a doctor recommends radiology for a patient.
TCR: At your examination, your doctor will order a radiology test – an MRI, CT, X-ray or an ultrasound – to help diagnose and treat your medical issue. Your doctor may advise you on where to have the radiology test done, but, ultimately, the decision is yours. You do have a choice, and you can take your radiology order to any facility that offers that test.
HLC: What happens if the doctor has already scheduled it for you at a particular facility? Can you change it?
TCR: Even if your doctor schedules it for you, once you have the signed order, you can schedule or reschedule at the facility you choose. Patients are learning that they should comparison shop for their health care expenditures, including outpatient radiology. Patients should feel comfortable asking their doctors for a few different facility choices or a less expensive option, as well as researching for themselves.
HLC: What list of priorities should a patient consider while researching facilities?
TCR: Not all facilities are the same. Price can vary greatly, even if you have insurance. There are a few key questions to ask while shopping around, such as: Is this facility in network with my insurance? How quickly will I be able to get an appointment? How much will I owe at the time of service? What can I expect with the billing?
HLC: Explain the difference between facilities owned by hospitals and independent facilities.
TCR: Patients should know that facilities owned by hospitals typically charge 40 to 60 percent more than an independent, outpatient radiology facility. Choosing an independent facility can save patients hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Independent facilities cater to the patient, offering convenient front-door parking and evening and weekend appointments, and the billing process is easier to understand – one all-inclusive bill. The hospital typically issues separate bills for the imaging test, the radiologist’s interpretation and sometimes charges a facility fee, too.
Tricounty Radiology is an independent imaging facility offering board-certified radiologists, state-of-the-art equipment and affordable pricing without sacrificing quality. To learn more, call 843-529-0600 or visit www.scdiag.com.
By Denise K. James