Patient Comfort in a Competitive Outpatient Imaging Market: West Boca Medical Center
Boca Raton, Florida, became a competitive market for medical imaging when entrepreneurial nonphysicians began opening freestanding imaging centers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Carl Rosenkrantz, MD, a radiologist with West Boca Medical Center (WBMC), recalls. “In South Florida, hospitals were reluctant, early on, to get into the outpatient imaging center business, and a tremendous number of nonphysicians got into the business just to make a profit,” he says. “A huge amount of marketing was done concerning them, and patients became accustomed to going to these freestanding centers that were not hospital affiliated.” As a result, when WBMC opened an outpatient imaging center, the organization knew that the stakes were high, in terms of service and patient satisfaction. “The whole concept was to improve our level of service, get the best possible equipment, and be the most competitive,” Rosenkrantz says. “Once we had imaged the patients the first time, we wanted them to want to come back.” In keeping with that goal, the West Boca Diagnostic Imaging Center (WBDIC) features patient-friendly design features such as hardwood floors, along with amenities that include free coffee and Internet access. The center even supplies patients with laptops for use while they wait. Rosenkrantz says, “A patient walks into this facility and immediately sees how nice it is. If you have to have imaging done, this is the kind of place you want to go.” Choosing the Right Equipment The right equipment is critical to fulfilling WBDIC’s mission of excelling in its competitive market, so when the center went shopping for a new MRI system, its priorities included patient comfort and high image quality. “Some people are claustrophobic,” Rosenkrantz notes, “and the way standard MRI systems are designed, it’s almost impossible for them to be comfortable. If they don’t feel squeezed, on the other hand, they can tolerate the exam much more easily.” The team at WBDIC knew that it wanted a 1.5T system, and when it discovered the Echelon Oval from Hitachi Medical Systems, it seemed to be a perfect fit. “This was the best option for us, at 1.5T,” Rosenkrantz says. “The oval shape really lets your shoulders and body breathe, and the system gives us image quality that is comparable to that of 3T MRI for a lot of indications. In early March 2013, we tested the system on 20 different patients, and we were very happy with the image quality, each time.” On top of those benefits, Rosenkrantz adds, the price of the system was competitive, and the implementation was simple. “We had a very good installation, and Hitachi gave two weeks of initial training,” he says. “One of our technologists, who is the assistant manager at the center, was having so much fun with the system that we joked that the others would never learn. It’s so easy to use, and the technologists really like it.” Getting Out the Word The new Echelon Oval system was installed as part of a larger project to update the center’s capabilities; its women’s imaging offerings are also getting an upgrade, with the introduction of breast-biopsy services. “We’re integrating all the best equipment into the center and having it communicate with the hospital’s IT system so that all of the patient data are in the same place,” Rosenkrantz notes. “With the Oval, we now have an advantage over all the other 1.5T systems in the area. The fact that it is the widest system is something that will bring in patients.” To help spread the word about the new systems, WBDIC is planning to hold a reopening party, once the updates to its women’s imaging capabilities have been completes. “We’ll invite our referring physicians, as well as hospital administration, and our radiologists will be there,” Rosenkrantz says. “The mission of our front-desk staff is to get to know a staff member in every referring physician’s office; the number of problems that those relationships solve is enormous, so we’ll have them as our guests at the opening as well.” At the opening, WBDIC will showcase the Echelon Oval’s patient-friendly design, in addition to the high quality of its images. “It’s hard enough to get patients in the door the first time,” Rosenkrantz notes. “You want them to come back, and you want to turn out good work for them that doesn’t have to be repeated. I want images that I can send down to the University of Miami if I need to,” without physicians there saying that they have to repeat the exams. He concludes that in an increasingly competitive outpatient imaging market, the right technology makes a big difference. “The Echelon is a nice-looking unit, in a nice-looking center, that delivers the image quality we need,” he says. “It’s very important for the patient to be comfortable: We’re making our center a place where patients want to come.” Cat Vasko is editor of ImagingBiz.com and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.