Intermountain’s Imaging Centers

Intermountain Healthcare expanded into outpatient imaging with the launch of its new imaging center subsidiary, Tellica Imaging. Plenty of hospital systems have outpatient imaging centers, but how and why Intermountain created Tellica brings some important takeaways.

About Tellica – Tellica Imaging plans to open a fleet of outpatient MRI and CT centers, starting with three Utah locations by late 2021, five locations in 2022, and more locations in “subsequent years.” The Tellica centers will prioritize patient convenience and value, targeting easy-to-access locations and adopting a novel flat-rate pricing model that’s well below typical in-hospital rates.

The Value-Based Angle – Given Intermountain’s role as one of the country’s flagship value-based care systems and its unique payor-provider structure, launching a series of imaging centers that are lower cost and more convenient makes a lot of sense. It’s also a step away from the hospital-based/owned procedure trend that’s helped hospitals from a reimbursement perspective, but brought a long list of unintended consequences (higher patient/payor costs, provider consolidation, imaging overuse, etc.).

The Payor Angle – Even though many patients use Intermountain’s in-house insurer (SelectHealth), Intermountain also works with a long list of commercial and government payors, nearly all of which have been incentivizing (or forcing) health systems to move more imaging procedures to outpatient centers. SelectHealth likely has the same preferences.

The Offsite Trend – In addition to the above payor pressures, there are some major trends underway that favor offsite imaging, including the rapid adoption of at-home/remote patient care, new COVID-related offsite policies, and the federal government’s efforts to make healthcare procedures more “shoppable.”

The Takeaway – Hospital-owned outpatient imaging centers aren’t all that unique, but Intermountain’s structure definitely is (payor-provider, value-based, non-profit) and so is its decision to launch these centers with such a patient-friendly value proposition. Even if most hospitals aren’t yet ready to offer flat-rate scans, the factors that drove Intermountain to create Tellica are likely forcing plenty of other systems to rethink their own approach to offsite imaging.

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-- The Imaging Wire team