The Value of Interventional Radiologists: How Does 100 Grand Sound?

Life-saving hemodialysis costs about $100,000 less for radiologists than surgeons, creating enormous value for health facilities, so says a study published in September in Radiology.

Hundreds of thousands of patients with end-stage renal disease receive life-saving hemodialysis each year, at annual costs of $34 billion. Most of these costs come from forming and keeping access conduits for dialysis.

Interventions to maintain access for dialysis are usually done by radiologists, surgeons or nephrologists. Turns out, the cost is highly dependent on the specialty involved.

What's the cost? 

Researchers from the University of Colorado looked at 1,479 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent their first arteriovenous access placement. Medicare payments for each incremental year of patency averaged $71,000 for radiologists, $89,000 for nephrologists, and $174,000 for surgeons. Check out the study online here.

Not surprisingly, operating rooms and anesthesia drove many costs associated with surgeons. So providers and facilities may want to rethink the necessity of these resources.

Where does interventional radiology fit?

In the same issue of Radiology, Sarah White, MD, wrote an accompanying editorial on the value of interventional radiology. She points out other studies that have shown the value of interventional radiology, including a study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology that found that hospital costs to place a chest port were lower for interventional radiologists than surgeons, without a significantly different rate of complications.

“Interventional radiology has always been plagued by having to prove its value,” White says in her editorial. Because it isn’t “the only specialty to perform image guided procedures,” she writes, “now more than ever, interventional radiology must prove its worth.”

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