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How to Take Control of Your Healthcare Budget: Independent Outpatient Medical Centers


    Promoted by Houston Medical Imaging


    With the average person spending $10,345 on healthcare in 2016, it's safe to say that medical costs are a major budget concern. Insurance premiums have risen from an annual average of $2,784 individually in 2013 to $5,712 in 2017, and many of these plans have deductibles in the thousands, as well as higher co-pays and co-insurance rates than in years past.
    Luckily, there are ways to help mitigate some of these costs. According to Dr. Randall A. Stenoien, radiologist and CEO of Houston Medical Imaging (HMI), one important thing you can do to take control of your healthcare budget is to look at outpatient medical centers as an alternative to hospital-based imaging.

    Substantial Cost Savings and Quality Services

    Outpatient medical centers like HMI are one of the best-kept secrets in the healthcare community and can provide major benefits. An MRI at a hospital can cost upwards of $2,000 for the technical part, which does not include additional radiologist interpretation fees.

    Outpatient medical centers usually run significantly less. On average, the global charge for an MRI at HMI is approximately $500, depending on test complexity, need for IV contrast and payor fee schedules. With this approach, you only have to deal with one bill instead of waiting for all the different pieces to arrive after a hospital visit. Our outpatient imaging centers have free parking, provide faster in-andout times and have state-of-the-art equipment. These facilities can handle most routine tests including:
    • Mammograms
    • Calcium scans and heart scores
    • MRIs
    • CT scans
    • Ultrasounds
    • Bone density scans
    • PET/CT scans

    Keep in mind that outpatient medical centers, like HMI, are not fullservice healthcare facilities, which means you do need to have a physician's order.

    Choosing a Facility

    It's clear that outpatient medical centers can save you a lot of money, but when it comes to your health, quality is very important. How do you know where to go to make sure you get the care you need and the savings you want? The short answer: Ask your doctor.
    Even if you're an active part of your healthcare team, the truth is the vast majority of patients aren't experienced medical professionals. You may not know enough about the technology and professionals involved, but your doctor does and can give a recommendation on a facility you can trust.
    If you're worried about bringing the subject up, don't be. It's OK to be upfront about your financial concerns and starting the conversation can be as easy as saying, "I'm thinking about going to an independent imaging center for cost reasons. Where would you recommend?"

    Important Questions

    Once you have a few recommendations from your doctor, you'll want to do some more research. Here are some questions to ask before making a decision:

    • How old are the machines? Some centers are still using 15- to 20- year-old machines, which may use more radiation and deliver lower resolution images.
    • Is it accredited?
    • Will my doctor and I have access to the images?
    • Will my image be read by a subspecialized radiologist?
    • What technology are you using?

    There may also be specific questions to ask depending on the test. For example, if you're getting a mammogram, you'll want to ask:
    • Do you do digital or analog mammograms?
    • Do you offer tomosynthesis (3D) mammograms?
    • Do you have a dedicated mammography subspecialist?
    If the facility you're looking at has a website, you may be able to find out some of this information by searching there. HMI, for example, has a lot of the specs for its machines and tests on its site, and that transparency is very important for patients who are self-researching for a high-quality facility.

    A Final Note

    While cost savings is often the primary factor in choosing an outpatient medical center, saving money isn't helpful if you end up with subpar imaging, which can put your health at risk. Talking to your doctor about your concerns and following up with the recommended facility can help you manage your healthcare budget while also ensuring you get excellent care.

    Click here to learn more about Houston Medical Imaging.

    Sources

    Houston Medical Imaging, CNBC, Hopkins Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.