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

For example, the facility doesn’t have an automated phone system.

“We get 100 phone calls a day, so we ask, ‘how do we maintain customer service when we really can’t hire that many more people?’” says Ruth Tesar, CEO of the imaging center.

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To make a smaller staff work well for the center, Tesar tries to hire tough people who can work independently while still following protocol.

“I try to hire people that are very flexible and that love to think on their feet,” she says.

Even in an economy full of eager job hunters, managers say it can be tricky to pick out the perfectly adaptable person.

“I’m always looking for multi-modality technologists,” says Viviana Ruscitto, director of diagnostic imaging at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester County, N.Y. “There’s always a dry spell with ultrasound and finding someone with experience.”

A smaller staff also means employees should be able to switch hats with ease.
“We have technologists that will run the front desk, and also scan and take X-rays,” says Julie Cassidy, operations manager at Tristate Imaging Consultants, with locations in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The center applies that emphasis on flexibility to the center as a whole, Cassidy says. Because the center is privately owned rather than being hospital-based, Tristate Imaging Centers can offer flexible hours and days of operation to meet area needs, she says.

Keeping up with the Joneses

Facilities try to offer cutting-edge technology whenever possible to keep patients coming and provide the best care. But tighter budgets mean centers must be thrifty about investing in high-end machines.

Affiliated centers, for example, can leverage their numbers to get deals on new equipment.

“Because St. Vincent’s is part of Ascension Health, we can leverage the size of the organization with vendors so that we get extremely good pricing across the nation,” says Elaine Murtha, system director of St. Vincent’s HealthCare in Jacksonville, Fla.

Some centers go the well-traveled refurbished route to save money on large purchases.

“I always look for refurbished, or if it’s small equipment, like a portable ultrasound, if we can find a demo unit that’s great,” says Murtha.

Service agreements can also be a financial burden for imaging centers, Murtha says. Her center chooses in-house engineering over outside contractors to save money.

Murtha says her center tries to stay on a five-year replacement plan, but that sometimes, other projects push to the forefront.

Health IT, for one, often takes priority thanks to Meaningful Use initiatives. But even if initial investments are burdensome, facilities sometimes find that health IT can help address other problems centers deal with.

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