Patients are more likely to show up to an imaging appointment when it’s scheduled within a week than when it’s planned at least six months in advance. Academic radiology units are losing approximately $1 million a year to patients missing medical imaging appointments. According to researchers from the University of Washington, the fees lost to no-shows amount to the purchase of one new 3T MR scanner every year.
In their study published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology, the group of researchers led by Rebecca J. Mieloszyk, PhD, evaluated a sample “average-sized, university-affiliated academic medical center” to understand the financial impact of imaging appointment no-shows. Using the 2018 Medicare fee schedule, they assessed the most common types of imaging exams: mammography screening bilateral, CT chest and head without contrast, breast bilateral ultrasound, MRI brain with contrast, and abdominal ultrasound.
The researchers found that potential revenue for missed appointments for brain MRI, abdominal ultrasound, and mammography screenings was more than $100,000 for each type of screening, adding up to almost $700,000 in unreceived payments for those exams. Missed breast ultrasound exams was around $15,000 a year. Mammography screenings were the biggest lost with $350,000 in annual missed payments, and according to another recent study, mammography typically has the highest number of missed appointments. Overall, these no-shows amounted to nearly $1 million.
“A costly form of specialty medicine, radiology likely sustains a greater amount of uncaptured revenue per patient visit than primary care or other practices due to patients not keeping their appoints,” wrote the authors. “Even in cases where an appointment is filled with an inpatient or standby patient, there are sometimes lost costs due to staff preparatory work, such as insurance authorization, scheduling time and protocoling.”