September 12, 2007
Metro Imaging CEO Dr. Harley Hammerman Recreates Healthcare
St. Louis Jewish Light
When Dr. Harley Hammerman, and his partners at Metro Imaging, set out to open their own outpatient imaging facility in 1994, they knew they wanted to change how healthcare was delivered. Using a patient-centered philosophy, Hammerman and company have successfully shifted the paradigm of medical care.
"We are less concerned about making profits than about service," Hammerman, a Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University, said.
Hammerman insists that the professionals who work at Metro Imaging have personalities that will do right by the patients and referring physicians.
One of Metro Imaging's features that reinforces that philosophy is its exclusive, new OnSite Results program.
"With OnSite Results we can tell patients the results of their exams before they leave our office," Hammerman explained. Unlike many imaging centers where the results are read by a radiologist off-site, and sometimes, according to Hammerman, in another city, each Metro Imaging facility has a full-time, board-certified radiologist on-site who personally reviews each image and gives preliminary results right away to the patient. This process eases the anxiety many patients feel waiting days or weeks to get the results.
"This is all about patients taking charge of their healthcare," Hammerman said, "and not waiting to get results from their doctor."
Judy Sternberg, a staff technologist at Metro Imaging, echoes Hammerman's thoughts.
"The patients really enjoy getting their results right away. I can't tell you how many hugs I get from patients who don't have to wait a weekend or weeks to find out the news."
Sternberg said that this way of doing business creates an atmosphere where the patients are more relaxed since they're not being herded in and out and where there's more personal interaction between them and the staff.
"The patients like when the doctors come out to talk with them. Many know the doctors by their first name and ask to be scheduled for a test when that doctor is working."
This emphasis on patient care has created an environment where patients feel comfortable and informed. Christine Keefe, chief financial officer (CFO), explained that Metro Imaging is not the typical healthcare facility.
"It's exciting to be involved in Metro Imaging. The technologists who operate the imaging equipment get hugs from patients. Even the staff at the front desk get personally involved with patients."
Keefe said that Metro Imaging's philosophy on patient care is a small step in giving patients a little more control.
"We feel patients have been left in the dark about what's wrong with them, how much it's going to cost, and what the results are."
Now, even if patients are getting bad news, they are grateful to find out right away and to be treated like a human, not like a number.
Hammerman acknowledges the importance of the staff in this type of patient-focused environment.
"Believe it or not the radiologist is not as important as the staff. We don't treat the patients as numbers and we have to have the right staff to accomplish that."
His vision to craft this new type of medical care requires that everyone at Metro Imaging goes through special training on how to talk with patients. This interaction with the patients is not only good for the patient, but also for the staff.
"Here, I can go home and say that I really helped so-and-so," Sternberg said. "I know that I made his day better by telling him it was or wasn't broken."
Plus, she said she has learned a lot by working at Metro Imaging.
Hammerman also insists that real people answer the phones. no answering machines or auto-attendant. And, everyone in the company is trained to pick up the phone and schedule appointments.
"Not having a call center or auto-attendant is not new," Keefe said, "it's really the old-fashioned way of practicing medicine. We want our patients and referring physicians to come to us because we take care of things."
She said Hammerman sets a good example for the staff, is always available to talk with patients and referring physicians, and picks up the phone when it rings.
"He's very visionary and really does look ahead for the future of Metro Imaging," she said. "This company is really his baby and he cares about the company."
Hammerman's concern for the staff is evident in how they are treated.
"He tries to make Metro Imaging like a family," Keefe continued. "We have a good benefits package, competitive salaries and he calls you on your birthday to sing 'Happy Birthday.'"
Keefe said Hammerman wants the staff to be happy and to take care of the patients. He believes that if the employees have a good environment then the patients will have a good environment. The patient satisfaction surveys seem to bear truth to this theory since they all come back very good. Sternberg agrees with Hammerman's philosophy.
"They treat you like a family here. We go out and do things together and have company picnics and a holiday party. And, Dr. Hammerman is always great about picking up sodas for everyone."
Hammerman believes his religion has affected how he runs his company.
"When I think of Judaism, it's not necessarily the practices and rituals as much as it is the ethics and how you treat others. To me, religion is about family which has carried into Metro Imaging."
Based on what his staff and patients have said about him and Metro Imaging, it seems that he has done a good job of incorporating these values into practice.