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Tighter Integration of Nighthawk Reports into Hospital EMRs and RISs

Posted Feb 15 2010 12:00am

"Nighthawk-type" radiology service firms, launched initially with the avid support of radiologists, have evolved to potentially be their nemesis. Defined succinctly, they provide the diagnostic services of outside radiologists to interpret medical images at times when members of a local hospital radiology group are unavailable. Such services were initially provided off-hours -- hence the name nighthawk. However, "nighthawk" firms have quickly morphed to provide around-the-clock services, putting some radiology groups out of business and causing others to fight back (see: Dayhawk Radiology and the Decline of the General Radiologist, Radiology Groups Begin to Develop Their Own "Nighthawk" Service Model). Although the concept of telemedicine has been in existence for decades, the most commercially viable version of this approach to the practice of medicine today is clearly teleradiology. Success begets imitators and there are now a number of firms competing with the original company, Nighthawk Radiology Services. One of them, Stratus Healthcare Teleradiology, has been acquired by SDI Diagnostic Imaging, and is taking the integration of nighthawk-type services to a new level (see: Mr. HIStalk note). Below is the item that I originally spotted in HIStalk:

SDI Diagnostic Imaging, a nighthawking radiology company, acquires Stratus Healthcare, another Florida company doing similar work. “Stratus’ software platform allows radiologists to do final reads and use a voice recognition system to dictate their findings directly into the patient’s medical record at the hospital, which will grow in importance with the push for more electronic medical records. It also could mean more direct billing of managed care companies for SDI’s services instead of billing the hospital or radiology group that is SDI’s client...

I will discuss radiology "final reads" in a later post. However, having a teleradiologist perform them with the report automatically integrated into the hospital EMR or RIS marks the next step in the maturation of this business model. I am sure that the clinicians on the hospital staff are provided with an efficient communication link to the remote "nighthawk" radiologist generating such a report or a colleague. In effect, then, there is little difference between such a relationship and the services provided by a local radiology group. I may get comments that "local" radiologists provide more direct interactions and face-time and I agree with this suggestion. Let's keep an eye on how the teleradiology business model continues to evolve. I am sure, like many other aspects of healthcare delivery, that the cost of services will play a key role in its future success. With teleradiology, the price of radiology services are now more subject to market forces (see: On-Line Auctions for Radiologist Services Offered by Telerays).

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