As a provider of diagnostic medical physics services, we understand the client’s need to budget and evaluate diagnostic medical physics services costs.
For all but the largest research-based facilities, hiring a consulting medical physics group (or individual) is generally a more cost effective solution as facilities typically do not have enough equipment or other duties to justify the cost of a full-time physicist.
There are a few things that facilities should consider when evaluating the costs of their diagnostic medical physics services:
Diagnostic Medical Physics Services Costs: What to Consider
- The desired qualifications, service level, responsiveness and engagement of your physicist (What type of service level do I need and expect?)
- The TOTAL annual service cost, including allowances for emergency surveys, new equipment installation surveys, meter calibrations, shieldings and dose estimates (What is ALL IN cost for that service level?)
Service Level & Qualification
I would argue that your service level and physicist engagement expectations are the most important characteristics in selecting a physics group or individual physicist.
All physicists and physics groups are not created equal. Your facility/system size, reputation, internal policies and individual preferences may all play a role.
At KGHP, we strive to have a more consultative, high-touch and responsive service offering, including office administrative support and technology investments to speed the delivery of our service. Our goal is that the value of our services to clients always exceeds the cost to the client. While we feel strongly about our model, it does impact our costs relative to other competitors.
Other physics groups and physicists may have a different, more limited approach, allowing them to have lower costs to provide their service and target a different client base.
In addition, there are increasing credential requirements for physicists by The Joint Commission, the American College of Radiology and other accrediting bodies (see Physicist Credentials below). It is important to understand the credentials of your physicist and whether they continue to meet the changing requirements. At KGHP, we employ a large number of qualified and board-certified physicists and provide online access to our physicist credentials for clients.
The bigger challenge once you have defined your service level and qualification needs comes is determining amongst consulting competitors what goes into their service pricing and how to compare varying quotes. This is a dilemma that radiology and operations managers will increasingly face as Baby Boomer physicists are getting older and retiring. Many will have to replace 10, 20 or even 30 year relationships in the near future and will need to be educated on the costs. At KGHP, we try to include as many of these anticipated costs into our contract price as possible, while other groups may charge for these items as they are incurred by the client. It is important to add up all expected costs for the year so that that the comparison is clearer.
Drivers of Costs
No matter the consultant, there are three main drivers of diagnostic medical physics service costs:
- Regulatory Requirements Increasing regulatory requirements on (a) the elements to be surveyed and (b) the type of equipment requiring surveys has a large impact on costs. Generally, most consulting physicists are not surveying everything possible to survey, but rather focus on meeting the regulatory requirements and will add to their survey procedures when new items are required by regulatory bodies. For example, CT protocol reviews are an additional new requirement of Joint Commission, which will result in increased costs for physicists to provide this service.
- Time Time drives costs as a result of the required time or frequency of the surveys. As regulations increase scope or frequency of requirements, survey times and survey costs will increase. In addition, certain modalities, like MRI or nuclear medicine cameras require more time to complete, and therefore, are more expensive modalities.
- Physicist Qualifications Given the increasing regulatory requirements, the qualifications necessary for equipment surveys accredited by ACR and Joint Commission are becoming more stringent. Board certifications, advanced degrees and significant continuing experience are becoming requirements for higher level modalities such as MRI, CT and NM/PET. As the level of physicist qualification requirements increases, it causes an increase in demand (and ultimately costs) to retain these physicists.
It is important to understand these items and how they impact your costs now and in the future.
Finally, size of the facility is a big determinant of final costs and the costs can range quite a bit. A single x-ray tube facility’s annual costs for medical physics services could be in the hundreds of dollars all the way up to a large hospital with outsourced RSO and medical physics services will run in the tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are interested in a quote for medical physics services for your facility, please click here.