Patient-centered Care, Technology, and the Imaging Center: ProScan Imaging

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Stephen PomeranzMark GrossmanIn September, ProScan Imaging, which owns a network of 25 imaging centers in seven states, became the first organization in the world to install the high-field Echelon Oval 1.5T MRI system from Hitachi Medical Systems. Featuring an oval-shaped bore that measures 74 cm, the Echelon Oval reflects the growing trend toward patient centricity in imaging technology design; it was the scanner’s patient friendliness that attracted ProScan’s attention, says founder Stephen Pomeranz, MD. “For years, MRI scanners came in open and closed varieties—the closed MRIs were more powerful, and the open scanners offered more comfort for the patient,” Pomeranz says. “We’ve seen well over a million MRs, and many times the patient will prefer the comfort and space of an open system, while his or her referrer will prefer the higher power of a closed.” The Echelon Oval MRI is a “game changer,” Pomeranz says. “It gives the patient the comfort of an open scanner with the versatility and many unique features that currently only exist on high-field MRIs,” he explains. “Patients and their physicians get the best of both worlds, and we can perform certain specialty scans that we really couldn’t do with the equipment available in the community up until now, such as early screening for Alzheimer’s.” Mark Grossman, COO of ProScan Imaging, adds that patient friendliness can be a critical differentiator in an increasingly consumer-driven health care marketplace. “Employers have been adopting high-deductible plans with higher co-pays in record numbers,” he notes. “Our goal is to make sure that patients understand they have choices when it comes to their imaging needs. We’re always striving to enhance the entire patient experience, while continuing to offer the latest technology. ” Technology Selection Pomeranz says that multiple factors go into ProScan’s evaluation and selection of new imaging technologies. “In some instances, low-field systems are quite effective, such as when scanning hands and feet,” he says. “So when we’re replacing technology, we look at it as an opportunity to provide a service to an area that needs it—we want to raise the bar of care in that community.” ProScan installed the Echelon Oval system at its newly renovated Eastgate imaging center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the company is based. “The eastside of Cincinnati is a bustling, growing area,” Grossman explains. “By bringing this first-of-its-kind, wide-bore technology to the greater Cincinnati community, we’re offering patients a new choice for their MR imaging. With this system, patients of all sizes, shapes, and degrees of claustrophobia can relax without feeling retricted in a tight space—the system even does feet-first imaging, so for some scans, patients’ heads do not even need to be inside the bore.” Pomeranz notes that the new system will accommodate patients more comfortably while providing the advanced clinical capabilities that referrers prefer. “We’ll be able to do imaging of the blood vessels, gall bladder, bile ducts, and the functional brain,” he says. “We can do dynamic imaging. We’ll be able to see into the brain in a more sophisticated way, and we’ll be able to perform microscopic imaging with a resolution that hasn’t really been available except on closed, high-field scanners.” Patient Outreach To get the message out to patients, ProScan is investing in more direct-to-consumer advertising. “We’re finding patients are really using the internet to look for health information, so we’ve expanded our website and added more patient education materials,” Grossman says. “We also just launched a billboard campaign with the tagline ‘Imaging Services Built Around You,’ targeting the high quality, service, expertise and lower cost that ProScan provides.” Additionally, Grossman says, ProScan works to educate employers and consumers about the cost differential between outpatient and hospital-based imaging. “We want the consumer to be aware they have a choice before they need an MRI,” he notes. “We’re using nontraditional pathways to get the message out to the consumer, and it’s resonating for one reason—when you ask patients to start paying for health-care services that used to be covered by their insurance benefits, they need to know they have high-quality choices that are offered at a lower cost.” ProScan has over two dozen imaging centers in seven states, and a common theme between them is that patients are having to pay more out-of-pocket for advanced imaging services. Grossman adds, “For that reason, we strive to provide leading-edge technology and convenience at an exceptional value. Our centers offer same-day, night, and weekend appointments to accommodate all patient schedules, while offering savings up to 75% when compared to local hospital-affiliated facilities, potentially saving each patient hundreds of dollars per scan.” Physician Education “We think of ourselves as educators,” Pomeranz notes, “and, in fact, we have one of the oldest private MRI fellowship programs in the world.” That educational ethos is applied to the organization’s referring physicians as well, he says: “We are strong believers in doctor-to-doctor education. We educate our referring physicians, and then they are able to educate their patients.” The educational plan for the new Echelon Oval system includes referring physician office visits and a direct-to-consumer campaign, including an open house at the Eastgate imaging center and other community events. “I’ll spend time utilizing the machine and learning some of the newer applications,” Pomeranz says. “After that, we’ll visit physician offices and give lectures and provide them with information explaining the capabilities of the new technology.” Eventually, Pomeranz says, ProScan hopes to add more advanced, wide-bore, high-field systems to its network of imaging centers. “Our plan is to utilize this technology in a strategic way to benefit the community at large,” he says. “If we raise the bar by providing terrific technology, and other imaging centers follow our lead, that’s a very good thing for patients.” He concludes, “ProScan Imaging takes pride and looks forward to bringing additional technological advancements and new services to market that are built around the patient, while still offering patients lowers cost than local hospital affiliates.” Cat Vasko is editor of and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.