By Brian Casey, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

July 29, 2014 -- Are things looking up for radiology administrators? That's the tantalizing suggestion from third-quarter data from the Medical Imaging Confidence Index (MICI), a forward-looking barometer of administrator confidence. While the numbers aren't definitive, they do hint at a second consecutive quarter of improving sentiment.

For the second straight quarter, each of the index's five elements showed growth. Also, the index's composite score -- a blend of all five individual elements -- returned to the base level of 100 for the first time since 2012.

Still, the changes are not statistically significant, cautioned representatives from the MarketTech Group, which compiles the MICI data.

Tracking key trends

MICI is a forward-looking index designed to provide an early view of trends as they develop. It is derived from the responses of 140 imaging directors and hospital managers who are members of the AHRA medical imaging management association.

Members of the MICI panel are asked about five key trends typically encountered by radiology administrators and what they expect in these areas in the upcoming quarter.

For the third-quarter data, MICI gathered survey participants from across the U.S., with 10% of respondents based in the Pacific region, 7% in the Mountain region, 11% in the West North Central region, 22% in the East North Central region, 13% in the Mid-Atlantic region, 20% in the South Atlantic region, 9% in the East South Central region, and 8% in the West South Central region.

Participants were asked to rate their optimism about five topics, and a single composite score including all five categories was also tabulated. Scores range from 0 to 200 and can be interpreted as follows:

  • < 50 = extremely low confidence
  • 50 to 69 = very low confidence
  • 70 to 89 = low confidence
  • 90 to 110 = an ambivalent score (neutral)
  • 111 to 130 = high confidence
  • 131 to 150 = very high confidence
  • > 150 = extremely high confidence
MICI data for Q3 2014

As in previous MICI polls, respondents showed the least amount of confidence that they will receive adequate Medicare reimbursement, with a score of 62. Radiology administrators continued to demonstrate the most confidence that their internal operating and staff costs would remain constant, with a score of 132.

MICI Q3 scores by topic
Topic Mean score Interpretation
Will grow monthly in diagnostic and interventional radiology 104 Neutral
Will receive adequate reimbursement from Medicare for diagnostic and interventional imaging 62 Very low confidence
Internal operating and staff costs will remain constant 132 Very high confidence
Will have access to capital for imaging equipment and IT needs 86 Low confidence
Will maintain/grow as a profit center 123 High confidence
Composite score across all areas 100 Neutral

As with the Q1 MICI numbers, the new figures provide some cautious optimism about the direction in which radiology is headed, said Ed Cronin, executive director of AHRA.

"Despite continued expectation and acceptance of lower reimbursement, there appears to be improvement in outlook toward imaging remaining profitable and the availability of capital, especially in the larger hospital segment," Cronin said. "Although it's too early to be considered a trend, it is refreshing to see this slight optimism, and we will look forward to the next few reports to see if it continues."


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