Staffing costs continue to vex administrators in Q1 MICI data

By Brian Casey, staff writer

May 5, 2022 -- Concerns about staffing costs continue to vex radiology administrators, according to data from the first quarter of 2022 in the Medical Imaging Confidence Index (MICI). Hospitals and radiology departments are facing both rising labor costs and staffing shortages.

Data from the first quarter of this year continue a plunge in administrator confidence that's been occurring since the fourth quarter of 2020. While a number of respondents to the MICI survey for the most recent quarter say imaging volumes are starting to stabilize or decline, they can't say the same about staffing costs.

"Staffing costs in the current job market environment are a huge concern for healthcare organizations, and it is reducing service line expansion," said one MICI respondent.

The Medical Imaging Confidence Index is derived from survey responses of radiology administrators and business managers who are members of the AHRA, the association for medical imaging management. Market research firm the MarkeTech Group queries members of the MICI panel about five important trends faced by radiology administrators in the upcoming quarter to provide a barometer of their sentiment about near-term business prospects.

For the 2022 first-quarter data, the index included 154 participants from across the U.S., with 12% based in the mid-Atlantic region, 17% in the South Atlantic region, 16% in the East South Central region, 7% in the East North Central region, 17% in the West North Central region, 14% in the West South Central region, 7% in the Mountain region, and 10% in the Pacific region.

Participants were asked to rate their optimism about the five topics, and a single composite score including all five categories was also calculated. Scores ranged from 0 to 200 and can be interpreted as follows:

  • < 50 = extremely low confidence
  • 50 to 69 = very low confidence
  • 70 to 89 = low confidence
  • 90 to 110 = an ambivalent score (neutral)
  • 111 to 130 = high confidence
  • 131 to 150 = very high confidence
  • > 150 = extremely high confidence

As in previous MICI surveys, respondents were most optimistic that their operation would maintain and grow as a profit center, as well as that their volumes of diagnostic and interventional radiology procedures would grow. But they were pessimistic about the stability of their operating and staffing costs in the near future. Full MICI scores for the first quarter of 2022 are below.

MICI scores by topic for Q1 2022
Topic Mean score Interpretation
Will maintain/grow as a profit center 135 Very high confidence
Will grow monthly in diagnostic and interventional radiology 130 High confidence
Will have access to capital for imaging equipment and IT needs 98 Neutral
Will receive adequate reimbursement from Medicare for diagnostic and interventional imaging 87 Low confidence
Internal operating and staff costs will remain constant 84 Low confidence
Composite score across all areas 106 Neutral

MICI scores for the first quarter of 2022 and their relationship to the previous eight quarters are shown in the following chart.

MICI 2022 Q1 chart

In the free-response section of the survey, respondents reiterated their concerns about staffing costs.

"Staffing costs are financially crushing, especially in CT," one respondent said.

Other members of the MICI panel have reported that they have many positions open in their organizations, and some have seen labor costs skyrocket as they resort to travel technologists and nurses to fill open positions.

"Our largest cost for the next few months will be staffing costs," one reported. "We have many open positions within x-ray and CT, which has forced us to hire temps. We are also paying premium pay to keep our staff working extra hours to cover the open shifts."

The Medical Imaging Confidence Index (MICI) is a joint research collaboration between AHRA, the association for medical imaging management, and market research firm the MarkeTech Group.

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