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Growing Outpatient Imaging

growing outpatient imaging

Health care is going through a transformation—and one of the most impactful changes is the shift from inpatient to outpatient care. While inpatient discharges for Medicare patients declined, outpatient visits have gone up rapidly over the past decade.

This is especially true for imaging. Imaging services have long been moving from the inpatient to the outpatient setting. And more recently, due to new payer pressures and patient preferences, there is increased pressure to place these outpatient services in freestanding facilities. In a 2017 survey, hospital-based imaging leaders predicted significant growth not just outpatient, but off-campus.

This research briefing explores the market factors underlying this trend, what the outpatient shift means for the price of imaging services, and most importantly, how imaging programs should respond.

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Shaping your outpatient strategy

In light of these changes driven by Medicare, commercial payers, and patient demand, imaging providers must make two key decisions:

  • Will I expand outpatient imaging capacity at off-campus locations?
  • Will I offer lower-priced imaging in my market?

imaging outpatient capacity vs. lower-priced services

Below, we've laid out specific questions imaging leaders should consider when making each decision. The questions are mapped to tools and resources that can help you make the relevant assessment or decision.

Questions to determine need or opportunity to expand outpatient capacity

Is my current outpatient equipment utilized at or near capacity?

 Diagnostic Imaging Capacity Utilization Calculator
This calculator allows users to assess current capacity utilization and volumes needed to support desired utilization, taking into account fleet size, volumes, operating hours, slot times, and uptime.

Is there sufficient demand in my market to fill new capacity?

 Outpatient Imaging Market Estimator
This forecasting tool provides ZIP code and county-level visibility to outpatient growth projections and market size for all imaging modalities as well as individual scan types.

 Outpatient Imaging Referral Benchmarks
This dataset provides specialty-by specialty outpatient imaging referral volume benchmarks and a calculator to estimate total volume referred by a user-defined physician mix.

What metrics should I consider in deciding the best market area or facility for placing additional imaging equipment?

 How to Evaluate Freestanding Imaging Market Opportunity
On p. 11-17, this research report describes categories of metrics to consider when evaluating location options, Advisory Board data sources for quantifying these metrics, and a suggested framework for combining multiple metrics into a single recommendation.

Questions to determine need or opportunity to offer lower-priced imaging

Is my market price-sensitive?

 Understand Imaging Pricing Pressures

This briefing includes tools for tracking market price transparency and sensitivity, information on national, state, and local price transparency initiatives, and tips for assessing the level of price sensitivity of four key stakeholders.

 Anthem will deny some hospital-based imaging: What you need to know
This blog post overviews the new Anthem policy affecting imaging pricing in 14 states and offers guidance for assessing potential revenue loss due to the policy.

What are my options for offering lower-priced services?

 Preserve Imaging Market Share in a Price-Sensitive Environment
This briefing overviews strategies for strengthening marketing for higher-priced imaging as well as offering a variety of price-competitive options.

How much volume growth would I need to make up a reduction in list price?

 Imaging Price Shift Impact Estimator
This tool enables users to estimate the net revenue loss due to reducing list price for any imaging scan, taking into consideration payer mix and characteristics of commercial contracts. It also calculates the volume growth necessary to offset such revenue losses.


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