A Major Victory for Patient Care: Vendor Partnership Helps Boost Revenue, Cut Costs

Missouri has been home to some big victories in recent years, with the Kansas City Chiefs winning Super Bowl LIV in 2020 and St. Louis Blues taking home the Stanley Cup in 2019. Another huge win for the Show Me State occurred in late 2018, when Columbia Orthopedic Group (COG) finally upgraded its CT system after years of consideration.

The celebrated practice, located in the bustling college town of Columbia, Missouri, first opened its doors in December 1965. Today, 27 physicians and surgeons call COG home, and diagnostic imaging, platelet-rich plasma therapy, outpatient surgery, bracing and orthotics are all available on site.

COG was looking to upgrade an older CT system for quite some time, explains CEO Gene Austin, but the timing was just never right. In 2018, however, incumbent vendor Hitachi Healthcare introduced a new partnership program, Hitachi Cares, which combined aggressive equipment pricing with a “service program on steroids” in an effort to decrease the total cost of owning new imaging equipment and improve patient outcomes. It didn’t take long for Hitachi Cares to grab the attention of COG leadership.

“We had had multiple conversations about upgrading our CT equipment, but we always had other capital expenditures that were viewed as higher priorities,” Austin says. “Hitachi’s partnership program, however, was really compelling. It tipped the scale and allowed us to finally move forward with that upgrade.”

Up and running in no time

When Hitachi’s representatives showed up to install the new system, Austin was surprised by how quickly they worked. In just five days, the crew had their new Hitachi Supria CT up and running. No additional remodeling was required—far from a given when new imaging equipment is involved—and it was quickly time for COG’s technologists to begin their training.

Ryan Norris, who manages COG’s imaging department, says Hitachi’s training was simple and straightforward, giving his team everything they needed to succeed.

“They were really helpful and even helped us work through the positioning with a few patients,” Norris says. “And we were already familiar with Hitachi, which made the training nice and easy for everyone involved.”

Hitachi also worked separately with numerous radiologists to get their preferred imaging protocols set up on the equipment, a step that helped the specialists learn more about Supria CT and everything it brings to the table.  

Better images, better workflow

The Supria CT includes everything COG was looking for in a new CT solution. The 75-cm bore makes patient positioning a breeze, for instance, and the deluxe monitor neatly presents all the relevant information in an effective, easy-to-read format. The most vital selling point, though, was the enhanced image quality. The practice’s legacy CT system, one of Hitachi’s older models, had always been dependable, but technology had moved forward over the years; COG’s decision-makers knew it was time to step into the future.

The system’s metal artifact reduction, HiMAR, has proven to be especially crucial, Austin explains, due to the type of work they specialize in. The post-processing feature is a quick, effective way to clean up images and provide radiologists with a better final product.

“Being an orthopedic center, we scan a lot of patients who have had prior back fusions or surgeries,” Austin says. “When the radiation passes through the body, it can bounce off that metal and create an artifact that makes it hard for the radiologist to see the anatomy and make a diagnosis. Hitachi’s metal artifact reduction helps us clean those images up.”

The Supria CT also includes innovative noise reduction features. Iterative Reconstruction Processing, for example, is a favorite of the technologists because it helps them follow the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle and keep radiation dose low without sacrificing image quality.

Norris also explains that the system’s useful design helps technologists move faster and see more patients in a given day.

“One of the best features about this scanner is Eco-Mode, where the system will remain in non-emitting rotational mode when not in use but can still make necessary adjustments during an injection,” he says. “It speeds the entire process up and makes it so we don’t have to start from scratch each time we want to move a needle.” Utilizing Eco-Mode can help reduce consumed power up to 35% during idle periods, according to Hitachi, helping practices save costs and energy all at once.

This convenience has helped COG see more patients, with CT volume up approximately 7% since the installation took place.

And the new machine has helped COG’s bottom line in another way as well: keeping patients in the building instead of being sent elsewhere.

“Some of our physicians were trending away from in-house CT over concerns related to image quality,” Austin explains. “But installing the Supria has fixed that. Those examinations have stayed with us.”

High marks across the board

Nearly 16 months after the Supria CT was first installed, Austin is happy to report that everyone has been blown away by its performance. The practice’s radiologists like it so much, in fact, that they ordered one for themselves. Yes, after seeing the high-quality images coming out of COG, the specialists at Columbia Radiology—a longtime partner of COG—purchased a Supria CT for one of their own standalone imaging centers.

“The bottom line is that everybody’s happy,” Austin says. “And it’s not always easy to please everyone.”

In smaller cities such as Columbia, it doesn’t take long for word to get out when something big happens. Austin says he’s had groups come to their office and do site visits, hoping to learn more about this state-of-the-art scanner. And when they ask COG employees if they like it, the answer is always a resounding, “Yes!”

“We’ve had no hesitancy referring and recommending Hitachi to other practices,” Austin says. “Hitachi has been a great partner for years, and this upgrade with the Supria was one more very positive experience.”

Norris is quick to agree, adding that he’s recommended Hitachi’s solutions to multiple groups over the years.

“It’s wonderful working with Hitachi,” he says. “Every Hitachi representative I have come in contact with, whether it was someone answering a phone at the home office or engineers who take care of our routine maintenance, has been professional and an absolute pleasure to work with.”