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Last summer, the leaders at State of Franklin Healthcare Associates came to an important realization.
Patients were often waiting too long for important imaging studies, which led to anxiety and delays in diagnosis. And once patients did get in for imaging tests, the costs were higher than necessary.
Rich Panek, CEO of SoFHA, said the decision was made then and there to do something different.
“Our patients deserve the highest level of care we can give them at the lowest cost and our payers are demanding we perform at a certain level of quality, so it became self-evident to go ahead and pursue the certificate of need for a state-licensed outpatient diagnostic imaging center with MRI,” he said.
This outpatient center strives to expedite imaging studies and reduce costs for patients while providing better continuity of care in a convenient, pleasant environment. The Center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to provide better image quality and improve patient quality of care in our region.
Until now, patients in our region have had limited choices for imaging studies. That experience often includes a tedious check-in process, long waits and radiologists who don’t have access to the patient’s detailed medical history.
Panek said SoFHA’s new imaging center was designed primarily with the patient’s convenience in mind. Prior to the opening of the Imaging Center, SoFHA launched a Comprehensive Breast Center that features a spa-like atmosphere, and the imaging center carries forward that patient-centered focus.
“We’re trying to do things differently in terms of environment, comfort, experience, speed to exam and potentially, in the case of breast cancer, speed to diagnosis,” Panek said. “All those things impact the patient experience, and we think we can do that in a way that they will be very pleased.”
The check-in process at the new imaging center has been streamlined and while there is a waiting room, Panek said wait times should be minimal.
Although the imaging center was conceived before the COVID-19 pandemic, Panek said he expects the facility to be safe to patients now and continuing in the post- COVID landscape thanks to its patient-centered design.
“I think COVID has forced us to consider how we work historically,” Panek said. “The systems we had in place were for the convenience of the providers, and we’ve had to change those systems to address the needs of the patients from a convenience and a service perspective.”
Trying to decrease the patient’s expense was a major driver behind the creation of the Imaging Center. Panek noted that patients who utilize a health system imaging service scan typically expect to pay higher rates. Therefore, SoFHA’s new center could be a more attractive option for those without insurance or with high deductibles.
The Imaging Center is proving to be a valuable tool to help SoFHA fulfill its mission of providing patient-centered care by using advanced imaging capabilities which raises the bar for quality, detection and patient safety. Panek said continuity of care, collaboration and the ability to easily access and transmit patient information helps set the facility apart.
The radiologist performing the imaging test will have access to the primary care physician’s notes, and if a consultation is needed, the primary care physician is just a phone call away. Armed with that information, a talented group of radiologists – led by SoFHA’s Dr. Raymond Kohne – will be able to hone in his or her read of the test to produce an accurate diagnosis and reduce the likelihood of additional testing.
“It’s a continuum of care that we’ve established, and I can’t say enough about the connectivity of the information,” Panek said. “That information produced from the Imaging Center is part of the patient’s electronic health record.”
Now that the Imaging Center is up and running, SoFHA is opening the facility’s services to patients from outside SoFHA’s network, although MRI services won’t be available initially pending the completion of a state licensure survey. In the future, Panek expects to see the center’s hours expand to help improve access to care.
“I think what we’re trying to do is respond to a patient’s needs in a little bit different style,” Panek said. “I think we can create an environment that is easier to navigate than what a patient traditionally finds.”