By John Garrett
It appears as if manufacturers are prepared to double down on getting Congress and the FDA to drive Independent Service Organizations (ISO) out of business and increase the cost of health care as a result. I have seen multiple articles recently about how we need legislation to control ISOs to “ensure safety and quality.” This is the phrase needed to send Congress into a frenzy as they look for a way to show how much they care about the health of the citizens as part of a vote gathering effort.
As stated in previous articles, there are standards in place to ensure that medical imaging quality is kept in check. Many hospitals and imaging centers participate in the American College of Radiology (ACR) accreditation which addresses image quality and standardization. If you have been in the medical field you are aware of the safety requirements and the extensive documentation required by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) which drives the accreditation through Joint Commission, DNV and HFAP. Many of the ISOs are participating in ISO 9001 certification (as well as other ISO 9000 compliance) which is a quality control certification.
It should seem obvious that standards exist and are being used. So what is really going on? The manufacturers have deep pockets and a large lobbying budget. What better way to use that power than to convince people in Congress, that have no real understanding of how a hospital is accredited, to pass laws that will, in fact, simply be tools to create service monopolies. If the only people allowed to service the equipment owned by the hospital is the manufacturer, prices will have to increase for health care services. Manufacturers are not trying to improve service quality. If they were they would simply learn to compete with ISOs by restructuring and operating like an ISO. Instead they are pressing our lawmakers to address a non-existent problem. But they suspect that it might not go through. In part because there is a great voice, in the medical field and medical imaging through publications and independent industry groups, that is trying to make itself heard.
The latest move by the medical imaging equipment manufacturers is to attempt to expand the requirement for medical imaging equipment and the ISOs that service them to include ALL MEDICAL EQUIPMENT. They also use the phrase, “in the interest of all stakeholders” but do not ever admit that most of the stakeholders, in fact a majority of the stakeholders, disagree with the assessment. Should they succeed in getting the legislation the cost of medical equipment service will skyrocket. Then also, as it may preclude using any in-house personnel for repairs, downtime will increase. The staffing models used by manufacturers, even if fully staffed, will be woefully inadequate. So, the end result will be increased price, lower quality and, worst of all, result in POORER PATIENT OUTCOMES. All because manufacturers are using a faux concern for quality to attempt to manipulate our government into legislating a monopoly to them.
What can you do? Keep an eye on what is happening, and contact your government representatives. Make sure that you participate in the conventions and HTM associations ensuring that they reach out to the government representatives as well. Remember, and remind everyone involved, that treating a patient and keeping cost under control is the real reason that we are doing this work.