August 29, 2008
Metro Docs Say New MRIs Brighten Financial Picture
St. Louis Business Journal
Metro Imaging is spending $4 million to purchase and install new state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems at its South County and St. Peters locations as demand for open-sided MRIs continues to increase.
Metro Imaging CEO Dr. Harley Hammerman said the new system offers two benefits: the open-sided machine means an MRI is more comfortable for the patient, and the unit is twice as fast as Metro Imaging's existing equipment and produces better images.
Chief Financial Officer Chris Keefe said current MRI exams are scheduled in 60-minute increments and the new units will cut that time in half. She expects MRI volume in South County to increase by 30 percent and in St. Peters by 60 percent with the new machines. In 2007, the South County location performed 4,500 MRI exams, and the St. Peters location performed 3,000. Combined with Metro Imaging's three other locations in the St. Louis area, the company performed 15,113 MRI exams last year. Though just a 1.9 percent increase from the number of MRIs performed in 2006, the 2007 total represents a 40 percent increase in volume from five years ago when the company performed 10,780 MRIs.
In addition to its South County and St. Peters locations, Metro Imaging has offices in Creve Coeur, Richmond Heights and Florissant. The company, which is locally owned by 14 radiologists, including Hammerman, has 70 employees and reported $30 million in revenue last year.
Metro Imaging's South County location, at 13303 Tesson Ferry Road, is the first outpatient imaging center in the country to install Hitachi's new Oasis High-Field Open Magnetic Resonance Imaging system. The system, which was installed Aug. 25, will be ready for use by mid- to late-September. The new MRI will be installed at the St. Peters location in December. Heartland Bank provided financing.
Kevin Locke, partner and co-founder of Hudson, Ohio-based health-care consulting company Charis Healthcare, said open-sided MRI machines are quickly becoming the equipment of choice. "Demand for anything that creates an improved patient experience is going up."
The Oasis MRI unit can hold patients weighing up to 500 pounds and provides a 270-degree view for patients as opposed to traditional MRI units where patients enter a closed tube-like structure and often feel anxious and claustrophobic, said Deanne Blume, Metro Imaging's chief operating officer. The shorter examination times will also add to a patient's comfort, she said.
On top of the $4 million for the new MRI units, which includes the purchase price, installation fees and upgrades to the exam rooms, Metro Imaging replaced four ultrasound machines earlier this year at a cost of $300,000. The company also has invested a total of $2 million since late 2006 in digital mammography equipment.