March – 2009 “Consultants Help Optimize MRI Business”
In today’s economy, no purchase goes unscrutinized. “People are looking hard at whether they really need to replace their MRI scanner or if they can make it last another 2 years,” said Rosemary Fisher, RT(R)(CT)(MR), cofounder of MRI Optimize Consultants, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Chances are, Fisher says, the machine can hold out. “The facility can make it last and at the same time expand the scope of the services it offers. Often, the users aren’t aware of the full capabilities of a system and the things it can do,” Fisher said. Fisher and cofounder Catherine Leyen, RT(R)(MR)(CV), established MRI Optimize Consultants, LLC to help facilities make smart decisions regarding their MRI operations and “optimize” their MR programs. “We look at the big picture from the beginning of a program to patient follow-up,” Leyen said. imaging-economics Small changes can mean a big difference. “If we come in and improve a site so that we add one case per day, at 5 days a week, 20 days a month, on average, that could be an additional $250,000 per year. And if we add two cases, it’s up to half million dollars, (depending on the state)” Leyen said. But it isn’t all about the money. The real focus is quality. “Quality doesn’t have to take more time the same way greater speed does not need to mean poor quality,” Fisher said. The company’s coaches focus on customer satisfaction, workflow, and teamwork along with a return on investment. Spectrum of Solutions MRI Optimize achieves its results by looking beyond the scanner.
The ultimate goal, Leyen says, is to improve caseloads, increasing the number of patients seen daily. The company will look at not only the scanner performance and protocols, but also the workflow from scheduling to follow-up, the facility’s marketing efforts, and the skills of its technologists. Solutions can include targeted marketing, implementation of Six Sigma processes, operator training, and new scanner protocols—anything that can be done to make the visit more convenient for patients. “Patients have a choice,” said Leyen, who notes that repeat customers are an important revenue source for an imaging facility. The company offers software tools designed to help with patient follow-up and marketing efforts. The services often depend on the needs of the client. New centers will have different needs than existing facilities. Common Set of Problems One of the most common challenges for a new center is the establishment of insurance contracts. “Unless you get that designation as a provider, you won’t have people coming to the center,” Fisher said. The consulting team offers the experience to help smooth the process. They also can help a new center with its marketing efforts, which present another big challenge for facility debuts. “New centers need to get the word out and identify what will distinguish them from competitors,” Fisher said. A problem that is not limited to new centers but is shared by all is finding qualified staff. “I have seen so many scanner installs where [the facility] had not been able to hire even one experienced MRI tech,” said Fisher. One solution is to provide continuing education support for staff, which can be done at a fairly low cost, according to Fisher. It not only helps to improve knowledge and skills, but it also will build staff loyalty. Technologists who understand the physics and the scanner can optimize the sequences they run to increase efficiency, speed, or quality. “There are about 85 to 100 different physics factors that make a difference in how an image turns out. And some sites want to run 13 sequences in a protocol, which can be a little overkill,” said Leyen.
A discussion with the clinician will often reveal that all 13 sequences are not needed and the process can be streamlined and/or sped up. Bedside manners matter, too. “When you treat everyone as your favorite family member, it makes a difference in the way the patient is treated and that has an overall effect on the equation of running any business,” said Leyen. Leyen and Fisher follow that same principle in their business practice and have grown a team of coaches, based throughout the United States, to help MRI centers with knowledge and inspiration, the ingredients of optimization. —Renee Diiulio