Value of IONM Provider

April 6, 2017

We all want the best quality for the best value, but it’s often difficult to evaluate our options accordingly. Hospitals that are exploring outsourced intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) options obviously want to know what they’re paying, which can be difficult when different vendors present different pricing models and different services. It can be like comparing apples to oranges to strawberries. They’re all fruit, but clearly not the same. Here are some quick tips for evaluating outsourced IONM services, taken from our new guide, The Real Spend of Your IONM Program: Eight Tips to Discover the True Value.

IONM in the OR 4410 (for social 400px)Start by talking with your potential IONM partners to see which pricing model is the best fit for your needs. Among the common pricing models are:

  • Hourly fee – Vendor sets an hourly price for IONM services.
  • Flat fee per case – Vendor charges the same amount per case, regardless of length.
  • Hourly (or flat) fee with hourly escalators – Vendor charges a set rate for, say, the first five hours, then increases the hourly rate afterward.
  • Monthly retainer – Vendor guarantees staff availability to perform services for one flat fee per month.

Within any of those pricing models, it’s always smart to clarify the costs. Sometimes an apparent low bidder may have additional fees or contractual assumptions that ultimately cost your hospital or your patients far more than expected. Full transparency of pricing practices is a must. Here are some questions to help you get to the true cost of care.

  • Which supplies are included with this pricing model?
  • Which supplies must be paid for separately, and what do those items cost?
  • Will you send separate bills for different aspects of this service (e.g., supplies or equipment)?
  • Do you “balance bill” my patients or send them to third-party collection agencies?
  • Does the price include professional services for online monitoring by a qualified physician or audiologist as well as technical services performed by the surgical neurophysiologist in the operating room?

img_4626_crop1_muted_lr-400px-highTo be comfortable with what you’re paying, it helps to be confident in what you’re getting.

  • You want a partner with a clear focus on providing quality patient care, not one who is upselling an equipment contract. Make sure you’re clear on potential vendors’ priorities. Is IONM service an add-on or a core function?
  • You’re busy! You need a partner that makes scheduling case support easy and reliable with a large enough pool of neurophysiologists to ensure that cases are covered.
  • There are no third-party training programs specifically for neurophysiology, so ask your potential vendor about their training programs. What didactic and clinical curricula do they use? How do they ensure that their neurophysiologists are current with advanced skills and emerging techniques? What additional certifications do they encourage their neurophysiologists to obtain?
  • Regulatory compliance is a growing concern. To protect your hospital, review a potential IONM partner’s standards to ensure they meet or exceed your expectations. Ask whether the vendor is accredited and certified by The Joint Commission. Make sure you know how compliance is managed internally and whether there are any potential conflicts of interest.
  • IONM is a growing field. Is the vendor advancing reliable industry expertise by engaging in data-driven research and then sharing insights with hospital partners and other industry experts?
  • As hospitals are increasingly challenged to prove their quality of services, it’s increasingly essential for vendors to provide quality reporting and analytics as well. An IONM provider’s data collection and analysis should provide you with extensive information on how their neurophysiologists, as well as your overall OR team, are performing. How widely can the vendor benchmark the results? How often can the data be provided? Can reports be customized? Ask for samples.

Before you recommend an IONM provider to your C-suite, do your homework. These tips will help you be confident in your selection. For additional details, download our new guide, The Real Spend of Your IONM Program: Eight Tips to Discover the True Value.