Recent news featuring Advanced Patient Imaging.
Cincinnati Enquirer Article
Cheap MRIs Give Patients More Options
Anne Saker, firstname.lastname@example.org 11:21 p.m. EST November 22, 2014
The changing environment of medical testing has put ultrasounds and mammography aboard mobile units. Now leaving the hospital setting to go into a clinic setting: the magnetic resonance imaging test
(Photo: The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor)
- Ohio average for MRI: about $2,400; Kentucky $2,530
- New company's machine 'exactly what you'd find in hospital'
- Customer: Experience 'made me think outside the box'
In Minnesota, a company sold Groupons offering cut-rate prices for MRIs to screen for risk of stroke. That kind of online deal hasn't made it to Cincinnati, but you can walk in to a storefront medical office and get a magnetic resonance imaging test for $395 – about one-sixth the cost of the test in a hospital. Low-cost alternatives for big-ticket diagnostic tests are the latest signs of how Greater Cincinnatians are changing the way they buy and use health care. As shifting pressures reshape the medical economy, people are relying more on their shopping skills and less on doctors to reduce expenses that health plans no longer cover.
Advanced Patient Imaging, open just two months
in a small office complex near Eastgate Mall, offers MRIs for a flat
$395, including the test interpretation by a specialist. MRIs can
detect cancer, ligament damage and other problems with soft tissue that
The point, say the company's founders, is to
provide a low-cost alternative that avoids the paperwork hassle of
insurance and a hospital's built-in costs that are passed through to
consumers. Plus, with coverage deductibles running to $7,500 a year,
consumers end up paying out of pocket anyway for MRIs and other medical
tests. "The hardest thing about this," said David Durham, clinical
coordinator for Advanced Patient Imaging, "is getting people to embrace
the belief that they are their own health-care advocates." "
"This is countercultural," said Dave Driggs, chief executive officer.
Typical local cost for hospital MRI: $2,400.
Jaime Conner of Batavia, who recently took
her teenaged daughter to the clinic for an MRI, is delighted at the
price for such an important diagnostic test. "
"I love the choice being given to me," she said. "For years, we just assumed you have to go to the hospital to get things done. I like the idea of choice. It lets me decide how much I'm going to spend."
In the past 30 years, medical science has multiplied the tools that can guide health care decisions. The tried-and-true X-ray test that reveals bones has been joined by the computed tomography or CT test, which uses X-rays to create cross-section images of the body, and the MRI, which uses magnets and radio waves to reveal soft tissue. With an MRI, a patient dons a hospital gown to lie on a flat surface that is wheeled into a tube encircled by the magnet housing. As a magnetic field is generated, radio-frequency waves are directed at the patient, who must be still for the length of the test, sometimes up to 45 minutes. The procedure generates detailed images of inside the body.
Because the equipment expense is so high –
an MRI machine costs about $1 million – only hospitals have had the
buying power to purchase them. The federal government has found that
the national average price for an MRI is about $2,700, not including
the radiologist's reading. The average in Ohio is $2,400. In Kentucky,
With the cost changes driven by the
Affordable Care Act, the two men realized that medical testing was
becoming an entrepreneurial opportunity. Fliers inserted into print
editions of The Enquirer, for example, advertise services of
Life Line Screening of Independence, Ohio, which
puts ultrasound testing in mobile units. Consumers can get ultrasound
screenings for five conditions for $149. I
In Plymouth, Minnesota, west of Minneapolis, a company called MRI Pathways sells MRIs for a flat $499, including the radiological interpretation. The company last year experimented with Groupon, the daily online discount deal, which created such a high demand for MRIs that the offer was discontinued, a spokesman said.
'Keep it simple, stupid'rule in play
Inside the Clermont County office of
Advanced Patient Imaging, consumers can also get $125 echocardiograms
to check the heart and $95 vascular sonograms to look for potential
blockages in veins and arteries. I
In the parking lot stands a separate, specially designed facility for the MRI, which the company leases, "exactly the same machine you'd find in a hospital," Durham said. A consumer can come to the office, pay $395, get the test and receive a radiologist's report within 24 hours. Driggs said the contracted doctors who read the company's MRIs are board-certified radiologists licensed to practice in Ohio.
Other companies around the country offer
low-cost MRIs in a price range, depending on the body part examined,
and some of them take insurance. Durham and Driggs said what makes
Advanced Patient Imaging different is that they have figured out the
lowest possible flat price for an MRI – and they have disengaged it
from the confusion of insurance coverage. "
"We follow the KISS principle – keep it simple, stupid," Driggs said. "There are no additional costs. When you buy a car, you shop around. That's what we're trying to offer in the medical arena."
About a month ago, Jaime Connor's 14-year-old daughter Kasey fell during volleyball practice at Williamsburg High School. Her knee swelled, and the pain increased. Connor grew concerned and worried about getting her daughter medical care. Connor and her husband are self-employed and do not have health insurance due to political objections to the Affordable Care Act. Connor and Durham know each other through their children's sports activities, and Durham suggested Connor bring over her daughter to Advanced Patient Imaging.
All Connor knew about an MRI was that it involved a giant tube "and it was very expensive." But she gladly paid $395 for her daughter's test one morning, and by dinner time, the family had the radiologist's report with the good news that the injury was not serious. She called the care and followup "phenomenal."
The experience "has made me think outside the box," Connor said. "I think people just assume: Hey, I can go anywhere because the insurance has got it covered. People could be saving thousands of dollars if they had this knowledge."
Story from The Cincinnati Enquirer/cincinnati.com. http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/11/22/cheap-mris-proliferate-even-groupon/19431111/