X-rays Brought to You in your Home, Hotel or Wokplace
Mobile xray services involve the transport of xray machines to the patient. These machines are similar to a large briefcase in size, and are wheeled around. The newer versions are computerized with digital images immediately viewed on screen and wirelessly sent to the interpreting radiologist and well as the requesting house call physician. Image quality is usually quite good. The cost of these xray services ranges from about $250 to $350 depending upon what specific images are requested. For patients who carry PPO insurance policies or Medicare, these services can be billed directly to the insurance in most cases. The cash paying patient has the benefit of avoiding the much higher emergency room costs when utilizing these mobile xray services. We have even boarded ships with the x-ray machine!
Ultrasound and the Housecall
In certain cases our house call physicians may carry handheld ultrasound devices which may be used to scan for fractures, abscess or even pneumonia. While this technology may not provide all the details required for adequate evalution of certain conditions, it may help to determine the immediate course of action needed.
Standard ultrasonography may be performed to evaluate for deep vein thrombosis, abdominal pathology such as gall bladder disease, and even echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart may be perform on location in the home or hotel room. Certified x-ray technicians carry these devices easily to the patient, perform the exam requested, then transmit images to board certified radiologists for rapid interpretation.
Cost-Saving Option: Your Local Radiology Center (non-hospital) –
X-rays may be obtained at free standing radiology centers for cost savings. Imaging fees vary tremendously among these facilities, but will always be substantially less than those of hospital radiology centers and mobile xray services. For example, here in San Francisco, an xray series done in an outpatient radiology facility to evaluate an ankle injury costs around $50-$100 at the time of this writing. While this may seem a bargain, the down side is that the patient must endure travel, possibly sitting in the waiting room, potential exposure to other sick or infectious patients, and then must usually wait several hours to 1-3 days for the results. Non-hospital facilities usually have limited, if any, service hours on weekends. Many of these facilities offer CT and MRI as well (CT and MRI are not yet available on a mobile basis). These services are usually scheduled in advance, but frequently, here in San Francisco, we are able to arrange for these tests to be completed within 1-2 days if requested prior to the weekend. Occasionally we are able to arrange for Saturday CT and MRI evaluation in San Francisco, however services may be more limited on the weekends elsewhere.
Hospital Radiology Centers
We rarely refer patients to hospital radiology centers because of the higher costs associated with these services. For example, a CT scan done at a freestanding radiology center will typically cost $500-$850. Hospital charges are commonly $3000-$7000 for the exact same test. For insured patients the cost to the patient may be the same no matter where the test is done. For those paying out of pocket, it is always best negotiate the price prior to the test being done by contacting the hospital billing department directly. While hospital radiology services are usually available on weekends to varying degrees, hospitalized patients always receive first priority when scheduling these tests.