How Vacancies in Radiology Departments Affect Revenue

The COVID-19 pandemic presented healthcare professionals with an abrupt situation that forced them to exercise agility and respond rapidly to the surging hospitalization numbers. The radiology sector wasn't spared. Leaders, executives, and staff managers in hospitals' radiology departments also experienced a shift in the radiology employment markets, which ultimately affected the revenue generated by medical imaging divisions.

The Post-pandemic Radiology Staffing Challenges

According to a 2019 Merritt Hawkins Surveillance Report on physician and advanced doctor recruiting incentives, there was a steady growth in radiology services (and revenue), expected to run through 2025. It implied a resurgence in demand for radiologists throughout the country, attributed to a large aging population and economic growth, which empowers many patients to choose elective surgeries. The report also established that many practicing radiologists were aging, and soon, the number of qualified radiology doctors would drastically plummet. About 82% of the 20,970 practicing radiologists are over 45 years old, and 53% are 55 years and above.

In March, the pandemic struck, bringing a significant plunge in radiology case volumes. In fact, by mid-March, some radiology departments had recorded drops up to 80%, significantly cutting down their projected annual revenues. May 2020 marked a recovery point for radiology services, with case volumes across various modalities (CT, MRI, radiography, nuclear medicine, and ultrasound) increasing significantly. Still, only a handful of patients were willing to visit imaging centers. Ultimately, that impacted revenue flow and capital allocations. 

Granted, hospitals and radiology centers must find contingency measures to deal with such unexpected situations in the future for uninterrupted cash flow. One of them is ensuring adequate physician staffing in their radiology departments. Sourcing imaging professionals from locum tenens is a surefire means of bridging the schedule gap as they look for permanent imaging specialists.

The Cost of Vacancies in the Radiology Department 

Healthcare Appraisers reported that the US imaging market could generate over $100 billion, with radiology departments and imaging centers accounting for about $19 billion in annual revenue. Those figures mirror how financially lucrative the country's radiology sector is. A full-time radiologist records an average of $ 1.46 million every year, while an interventional CT or MRI professional bills $ 1.56 million. That said, any vacancy in a radiology department or practice can drastically lead to significant losses. 

Physician staffing managers in radiology practices take an average of 12 months to fill a vacant position. During the interim, work volumes increase. About 45% of practicing radiologists say they experience burnouts. With such increased pressure, it results in about 3-5% of the erratic interpretations of MRI scans. Furthermore, their working morale suffers, ultimately hurting the quality, accuracy, and interpretation of the generated MRI and CT scans. 

How Locum Tenens Solve Radiology Vacancies for Uninterrupted Cash Flow

A radiology department or imaging center can have temporary vacancies because of employee absenteeism. It might be due to maternity, sabbatical, sick leave, vacation, or pursuance of a master's or doctoral degree. Healthcare providers and radiology administrators must rapidly fill that vacancy to ensure continuous service provisions and an uninterrupted revenue flow. 

Locum tenens offer providers with vetted MRI professionals to fill radiology vacancies temporarily. That's critical to close the gap in service schedules caused by unavoidable employee time off. It's also an excellent means of alleviating frequent burnouts among the remaining personnel, leading to job satisfaction and extended years of practice. Additionally, it significantly reduces erratic interpretations of CT and MRI images, often associated with employee burnouts. 

Do you have vacancies within your radiology department or medical imaging center that you need filling? Contact us today to learn more about the comprehensive staffing solutions Med X can offer to your facility.