RADIOLOGY IN ALBERTA
What is Radiology?
Radiology is vital in the early diagnosis of heart disease, cancer and other serious issues.
Radiologists are the specialized physicians who plan, supervise and interpret medical imaging tests. When your doctor refers you for an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan or mammogram, a radiologist oversees your test, makes a diagnosis, and helps develop the best treatment plan for you.
Radiologists also use image-guided techniques – less risky and less invasive than traditional surgery – to treat conditions like pain, cancer and aneurysms.
There are just 487 radiologists in Alberta, and they handle about 6.5 million medical imaging exams per year. It takes a great deal of expertise to manage these tests and interpret the results correctly – on top of an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school, it takes another 5-6 years of specialized training to become a radiologist.
After your medical imaging test, your radiologist provides a written report of the results to the doctor who referred you. This often includes the radiologist’s expert opinion on how to treat any problems the test uncovered, which is then used to develop your treatment plan. More and more patients are also meeting directly with their radiologist to receive minimally invasive procedures like biopsies, or spine injections for pain management.
Whether you see your radiologist in person or not, they are a vital part of your health care team. Early and accurate diagnosis and minimally invasive, image-guided procedures both improve health outcomes for Albertans.
Value for Albertans
When something might be seriously wrong with your health, a fast and accurate diagnosis can be lifesaving. That’s a big part of what radiologists do, both in community radiology clinics and around the clock in hospital settings.
There are over 150 community radiology clinics across the province, making these services readily accessible to all Albertans. These clinics also free up hospital resources and keep wait times low. When you need a radiologist’s care, Alberta is one of the best places to be.
Because it takes sophisticated medical technology and a team of specialized staff, radiology is expensive. It’s also a necessary part of modern health care. The money Alberta invests in radiology, as part of its health care budget, is an important investment in Albertans’ health and quality of life.
Radiology Billings and Overhead Costs
Community radiology clinics are funded the same way as your family doctor’s office. Your radiologist owns and operates the clinic, assuming all related expenses, and they bill Alberta Health Services a specific amount for each procedure. 70 to 74 per cent of these fees go toward the costs of running the clinic, not to the radiologist as personal pay.
These costs include:
Setting up a specialized clinic space and installing the necessary medical imaging equipment costs between $3-5 million per clinic.
Billings for radiology represent the full cost of providing outpatient radiology in 150+ community clinics, plus in-hospital radiology.
What Does It Cost To Run a Clinic?
MNP conducted a report on the overhead costs for radiology practice in Alberta. Data was collected from individual radiologists, and from the books of multiple large physician groups pertaining to their 2017 year end.
Benefits of Community Radiology
A recent survey by the Alberta Medical Association found that 96% of patients were satisfied with their experience at a community radiology clinic. The radiologists who run these clinics take pride in providing the best patient experience possible, providing a high standard of service in a calm, welcoming environment.
Community clinics have highly qualified staff, state-of-the-art medical imaging equipment and computer systems that get your results where they need to go, quickly. Your radiologist sends their report to the same health information network that hospitals and family medicine clinics use, ensuring that your GP or emergency room doctor can easily access the information they need after your test.
Alberta radiologists are committed to being there for patients, exactly when and where their services are needed. Community clinics in our province perform 14,000 diagnostic imaging procedures every year, allowing a higher proportion of patients to receive their tests outside of hospital than any other region in Canada.
Particularly for CT and MRI scans, patients don’t need to wait as long in a clinic as they would in a hospital, and clinics are conveniently located in patients’ own communities. Providing radiology in community clinics also frees up hospital resources, allowing radiologists in hospitals to attend to the most urgent cases quickly and efficiently.