This article is intended for any physician, administrator, or cardiovascular catheterization laboratory (CCL) staff member who desires a fundamental understanding of finances and economics of CCLs in the United States. The authors' goal is to illuminate general economic principles of CCL operations and provide details that can be used immediately by CCL leaders. Any article on economics in medicine should start by acknowledging the primacy of the principles of medical ethics. While physicians have been trained to act in the best interests of their patients and avoid actions that would harm patients it is vitally important that all professionals in the CCL focus on patients' needs. Caregivers both at the bedside and in the office must consider how their actions will affect not only the patient they are treating at the time, but others as well. If the best interests of a patient were to conflict with any recommendation in this article, the former should prevail. KEY POINTS: To be successful and financially viable under current payment systems, CCL physicians, and managers must optimize the outcomes and efficiency of care by aligning CCL leadership, strategy, organization, processes, personnel, and culture. Optimizing a CCL's operating margin (profitability) requires maximizing revenues and minimizing expenses. CCL managers often focus on expense reduction; they should also pay attention to revenue generation. Expense reduction depends on efficiency (on-time starts, short turn-over time, smooth day-to-day schedules), identifying cost-effective materials, and negotiating their price downward. Revenue optimization requires accurate documentation and coding of procedures, comorbidities, and complications. In fee-for-service and bundled payment reimbursement systems, higher volumes of procedures yield higher revenues. New procedures that improve patient care but are expensive can usually be justified by negotiating with vendors for lower prices and including the "halo effect" of collateral services that accompany the new procedure. Fiscal considerations should never eclipse quality concerns. High quality CCL care that prevents complications, increases efficiency, reduces waste, and eliminates unnecessary procedures represents a win for patients, physicians, and CCL administrators.
Keywords: cardiovascular catheterization laboratory management; economics; new technology.
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