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Special report: Imaging centers put up a fight

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | July 29, 2013
From the July 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

At Rosetta Radiology in Manhattan, effective management involves more than purchasing equipment and hiring staff. With only four doctors on staff, it’s a small center in a big city rich with hospitals and health systems that are constantly scooping up independent centers. To stay strong solo, the center had to explore alternative ways to get the word out to potential patients. In a typical week, employees may give input on a Facebook post, participate in a charity walk for cancer research or give a presentation at a local school.

“You don’t have to get one big billboard, you can do 10 small things,” says Deborah Bergsohn, physician relationship manager at Rosetta Radiology.

Besides the time the center has put into marketing and outreach, it also made a financial investment— Bergsohn was hired from a company that helps small imaging centers with their marketing efforts.

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Even though Rosetta Radiology is staying independent, the office still connects with other doctors’ offices via Facebook and through group activities like charity walks. “The referrals are going to be 5 percent patients, 95 percent doctors offices,” says Bergsohn.

In total, sixty-six percent of the 6,514 imaging centers in the U.S. are affiliated sites, according to a survey from Radiology Business Journal. Despite lower reimbursements for radiology, the number of imaging centers grew in 2012, perhaps in anticipation of the potential patients to be added to the ranks of the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. Most of that growth was among the country’s largest imaging center chains, led by RadNet, which owns 220 centers in California and on the East Coast.

Being part of a network has its economic benefits, but Bergsohn says independence has its perks, too.

“Besides the financial freedom, it’s nice to be able to say to existing patients, ‘we are going to remain the same dedicated practice that we always were,’” says Bergsohn. “We have patients who have been coming here for 20 years for their mammograms.”

The struggle for independence, or the choice to join a network, is just one challenge imaging centers face today. Lower reimbursements leave a smaller budget to deal with equipment purchasing, service contracts and staffing, forcing managers and employees alike to get creative and stay flexible.

Power to the people

Like Rosetta Radiology’s social media and community engagement efforts, Northern California PET Imaging Center in Sacramento, Calif. puts much of its focus on quality customer service. But sometimes it’s tough to maintain the manpower required to please everyone.

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