Rural, Wyoming practice joins Strategic Radiology

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 - Geoff Smith MD

Eight-radiologist Casper Medical Imaging in Casper, Wyo., has joined the Palmetto, Fla.-based Strategic Radiology, becoming the first small, rural affiliate of the 18-practice collaborative.

Arl Van Moore Jr., MD, chairman of Strategic Radiology, which now encompasses more than 1,300 radiologists in 15 states, explained the fit. The addition “represents a significant first step toward our goal of including independent radiology groups of all shapes and sizes as an integral part of our independent group practice collaborative,” Moore said in prepared remarks issued Oct. 20. “We believe SR has much to offer to CMI, but perhaps more importantly, we also expect their team’s knowledge base and expertise will enhance the SR value for all member groups and the specialty of radiology.” spoke with Geoff Smith, MD, president of Casper Medical Imaging, about what led up to the decision to join and where it goes from here. What made joining with Strategic Radiology a good decision for you?

Smith: It doesn’t come as any mystery, if you follow what’s happening in medicine and in radiology, that, as time has gone on, there is the need—and also some market and other pressures—for groups to offer best-of-breed subspecialized care as a standard offering with whatever they’re doing in the community. And certainly, we haven’t been immune to that.

You have to have physicians who have their feet on the ground. They have to be participants in the local medical community. You can do some things remotely, but there are a lot of services that require a physician with boots on the ground and hands on the patient and interacting with medical staff. So, for us, there is still a compelling need to service our marketplace as a local radiology group. But we recognize that, as the world continues to evolve, it’s going to be necessary for us to ally ourselves with larger and more diverse groups and other locales, both to augment our fund of knowledge and to help us with business management. [So we are open to] alliances that will help us leverage the experience and talents of other groups around the country to basically further our goals and meet our obligations as a local group of physicians. Will there be cross-pollination between you and SR with professional services as well as business expertise?

Smith: Yes, a little bit of both. I think that Strategic Radiology, like everybody else in all of medicine and in the radiology “industry,” is evolving over time. They’ve got a variety of different things that allow us to control costs through things, for example, as simple as purchasing agreements, shared business expertise for groups that are dealing with the same kinds of issues with billing and government regulation and advocacy and everything else that everybody is dealing with.

There are also quality issues. We have increasing requirements to perform active peer review and monitor quality of services, not only in terms of read accuracy and things as simple as, say, mammographic callback rates, but also more sophisticated indicators like wait times for patients and other things that you need to tend to in terms of patient access. And the kind of quality that people perceive through those kinds of things.

And then there are also access issues in terms of having availability of subspecialists who do rather esoteric exams that are commonly done in an urban locale with a population of a couple million people—for example, cardiac MRI or some other kind of uncommon procedures. Some of these things can happen at any time of the day or night, almost, and for a group of our size it is just not feasible to have direct access to a given subspecialist all the time.

So in terms of cost, trying to run our business efficiently, and in terms of quality—patient access and service access—we saw it as a winning proposition to become an affiliate. Will you use the affiliation for branding or marketing? Some websites of SR affiliates prominently display the SR logo while others don’t show it at all.

Smith: I believe we will. I think that’s one of the things SR has been working on. They’re basically doing a lot of the things that groups do individually, except doing it across the whole consortium now. They’ve got marketing tools similar to the ones that some of the professional societies have taken a run at, but these guys have done it with somewhat of a different spin in terms