Room for growth in teleradiology, says KLAS

By Mike Miliard
10:48 AM

A new report from KLAS finds that recent mergers in the teleradiology market are offering other vendors new opportunities to grow, improve service and refocus on the needs of providers.

Since Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Virtual Radiologic (vRad) acquired Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NightHawk – the largest teleradiology firm in the United States – a year ago, researchers say teleradiology customers have been questioning how the acquisition would affect them and the market. That question and others are explored in KLAS' new "Teleradiology Services 2011: Times are Changing."

[See also: vRad to acquire NightHawk.]

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Emily Crane, director of teleradiology research at KLAS and author of the recent report, notes that the acquisition "directly affected the largest customer base of teleradiology."

She adds that many NightHawk customers "have reported challenges with turnaround times, and reading physicians have struggled with the transition to vRad's technology since the acquisition. Additionally, vRad was ranked number one in the 2010 teleradiology report, 'Teleradiology Study 2010: A detailed read on the market,' but with the pressure of bringing in NightHawk customers, vRad's performance scores have slipped. Most of the long-time vRad customers report being relatively happy and appear willing to ride out the storm. That said, almost half of the former NightHawk customers are looking for other options."

Specifically, customers moving on from NightHawk are looking at some of the smaller vendors also included in the 2011 study, the KLAS report finds. In particular, Poway, Calif.-based StatRad, one of the regional vendors in the West, is on the radar of many providers across the U.S. in need of a new teleradiology vendor.

Along with StatRad, other smaller vendors are expanding their presence, according to researchers, who note that Riverside, Calif.-based ONRAD has grown to be a national vendor this year while maintaining high performance. Littleton, Colo.-based Rays, which is known for its service and turnaround times, has also gained some business outside of its typical Southeast region with customers validated in every region of the U.S., KLAS notes.

Meanwhile, unlike other regional vendors looking to expand, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based Imaging On Call (IOC) has actually pulled back its expansion plans to focus on their Northeast regional customer base, according to the report, which notes that while its overall performance score has improved over the past year, it is still below the scores of other regional vendors in this report. IOC was acquired by RadNet earlier this year, and the additional resources may have also helped IOC improve customer satisfaction.

[See also: vRad partners with Doctors Without Borders.]

"Turnaround times surfaced as a more critical and top of mind issue this year; in fact, much of a vendor's success hinged on the speed of their turnaround times," said Crane. "Teleradiology Solutions (TRS) has the quickest prelim turnaround times of the four nationally ranked vendors and is the number one ranked vendor for 2011. With the efforts TRS has made to improve, it is no surprise that their customers are more satisfied and their scores have moved up in the rankings."

Most vendors' turnaround times are within a couple of minutes of each other, KLAS finds, but Beachwood, Ohio-based Radisphere, which focuses on final and specialty reads, had much slower turnaround times. However, Radisphere does appear able to manage customer expectations, for the most part, and keep customer satisfaction ratings steady, according to researchers.

Early findings for vendors AltaVista and USTeleradiology were included in the report, but due to a limited sample size were not ranked. (Although USTeleradiology's sample size is small, they do have customers nationwide.) Other smaller vendors, meanwhile, including Aris Teleradiology, Epic Teleradiology and Sunset Radiology, did not have enough presence in the market to be included in the report.

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